Photo: Lloyd Spitalnik/Vireo

Broad-winged Hawk

Buteo platypterus

A small hawk, common in eastern woodlands in summer. Staying around the edges of forest, Broad-wings are often not very noticeable during the breeding season, but they form spectacular concentrations when they migrate. Almost all individuals leave North America in fall, in a mass exodus to Central and South America, and sometimes thousands can be seen along ridges, coastlines, or lake shores when the wind conditions are right.
Conservation status Early in the 20th century, large numbers were sometimes shot during migration, but with legal protection their numbers now seem healthy.
Family Hawks and Eagles
Habitat Woods, groves. Typically breeds in deciduous forest or mixed coniferous-deciduous forest, often near water and near clearings or edges. Migrants may be seen over any kind of open country, but tend to stop for the night in forest or extensive groves of trees.
A small hawk, common in eastern woodlands in summer. Staying around the edges of forest, Broad-wings are often not very noticeable during the breeding season, but they form spectacular concentrations when they migrate. Almost all individuals leave North America in fall, in a mass exodus to Central and South America, and sometimes thousands can be seen along ridges, coastlines, or lake shores when the wind conditions are right.
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Feeding Behavior

Hunts by watching for prey from a perch, usually located along edge of woods or near water. When prey is spotted, the hawk swoops down rapidly to capture the creature in its talons. Occasionally hunts by flying through the woods or along watercourses, actively searching for prey.


Eggs

Usually 2-3, sometimes 1-4. Whitish, usually spotted with brown. Incubation is almost entirely by female, 28-31 days. Male brings food to female during incubation, then he may sit on eggs while she eats. Young: Female remains with young almost constantly for first 1-2 weeks after they hatch; male brings food, and female feeds it to nestlings. Young may climb out of nest onto nearby branches at about 4-5 weeks; can fly at about 5-6 weeks, and soon start learning to hunt.


Young

Female remains with young almost constantly for first 1-2 weeks after they hatch; male brings food, and female feeds it to nestlings. Young may climb out of nest onto nearby branches at about 4-5 weeks; can fly at about 5-6 weeks, and soon start learning to hunt.

Diet

Includes small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds. Varied diet includes mice, voles, squirrels, other small mammals; toads, frogs, snakes, lizards, young turtles; various small birds; large insects. Sometimes eats crayfish, fish, centipedes, earthworms.


Nesting

Early in breeding season, pairs circle high in the air, calling. In display, one bird may fly high, then dive steeply toward the ground. Nest site is usually in the lower part of a large tree (either deciduous or coniferous), typically 25-40' above ground. Nest (built by both sexes) is a rather small platform of sticks, lined with softer materials such as bark and moss. Leafy green twigs often added during nesting cycle. Often uses pre-existing nest of hawk, crow, or squirrel, adding material to it.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Migration

A long-distance migrant, most going to South America for the winter. Migrates in flocks. Birds from throughout the east travel southwest or south to go around, not across, the Gulf of Mexico.

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Migration

A long-distance migrant, most going to South America for the winter. Migrates in flocks. Birds from throughout the east travel southwest or south to go around, not across, the Gulf of Mexico.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Thin whistle, pe-heeeeeeeee? Blue Jays are known to mimic the call.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.