An obligate riparian nester in the southwestern United States, the Common Black Hawk favors remote, mature gallery forest corridors along perennial streams. Its black plumage, prominent white tail band, and unique vocal shrills add an exotic, Neotropical aspect to the array of hawks in the Southwest. Breeding from northern South America to southwestern Utah, this species is migratory in the United States but generally resident elsewhere. Common and frequently reported to be tame and easily approachable in the southern portion of its range, it is rare and secretive to the north.
This hawk is an opportunistic feeder with a broad diet. It generally hunts from a perch, capturing small to medium-sized vertebrates or invertebrates (except venomous snakes) and favoring fish, crayfish, and other aquatic animals. Relatively little research has been done on this species. Affinities of its closely related forms are not well defined, and more study is needed to determine if these should be treated as separate species or as conspecifics. The highest management priority for the Common Black Hawk in the United States is the conservation, improvement, and expansion of its riparian habitat, currently threatened throughout much of the Southwest. Listed by state governments as threatened in Texas, endangered in New Mexico, and of concern (a "candidate species") in Arizona, this hawk is not yet federally listed by the U.S. government. Mexico plans to list it as threatened, however, which may help stimulate much needed research there.