Broad-winged Hawk

Buteo platypterus

  • Version: 2.0 — Published February 28, 2014
  • L. J. Goodrich, Scott T. Crocoll, and Stanley E. Senner

Free Introduction Article Access

The Introduction Article is just the first of 11 articles in each species account that provide life history information for the species. The remaining articles provide detailed information regarding distribution, migration, habitat, diet, sounds, behavior, breeding, current population status and conservation. Each species account also includes a multimedia section that displays the latest photos, audio selections and videos from Macaulay Library’s extensive galleries. Written and continually updated by acknowledged experts on each species, Birds of North America accounts include a comprehensive bibliography of published research on the species.

A subscription is needed to access the remaining account articles and multimedia content.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Sign In
Figure 1. Distribution of the Broad-winged Hawk in North and Middle America.

The breeding range of this species also includes many islands in the eastern Caribbean (see text for details).

Adult light-morph Broad-winged Hawk, Goshutes, NV, 2 October.

Broad-winged Hawks are best known for their spectacular migrations, which take them from the forests of the Northeast to South America and back. Broad-wingeds form large "kettles" during migration, and sometimes thousands can be seen in a day passing by hawk watch sites along the Great Lakes, the Northeast, and across Texas. Adults are characterized by their unmarked underwings, barred reddish underparts (heaviest on breast), and bold black and white banded tails. The following is a link to this photographer's website:

This small, stocky Buteo hawk, with its conspicuous, broad white-and-black tail bands, is a common breeder in large deciduous and mixed-deciduous forests of northeastern and north-central North America. It is a secretive species while nesting but conspicuous in migration. One of the few North American raptors that flocks during migration, Broad-winged Hawks are commonly seen in the tens of thousands at the peak of their fall and spring migrations in southern Texas, Mexico, and Central America.

Nesting pairs spend most of their time beneath the forest canopy, perch-hunting for insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds. Territorial adults can be located by their plaintive peee-uurr whistle, given during occasional soaring flights above the canopy. Wintering birds inhabit forest and forest edges from southern Mexico south through Brazil and Bolivia. Small numbers of mostly immature birds winter in south Florida and the Florida Keys. Endemic subspecies occur on several Caribbean islands.

Although some aspects of the Broad-winged Hawk's migration behavior and breeding ecology have been well-documented, little is known about the species' wintering ecology and other facets of its life history. Many observations of its life history come from one early study (Burns 1911), and much remains poorly documented.

Few studies have examined color-marked birds or radio-tagged birds (Hengstenberg and Vilella 2005), or have followed individuals for more than two years.

Recommended Citation

Goodrich, L. J., S. T. Crocoll, and S. E. Senner (2014). Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.