Photo: Tom Vezo/Vireo

White-tailed Hawk

Buteo albicaudatus

A hawk of tropical grasslands and savannahs, the White-tail is fairly common in places on the coastal prairie of Texas. It is a rather bulky bird, with noticeably broad wings and short tail, and it soars with the wings held in a shallow "V." Although it seems particular in its choice of habitat, it is a generalized feeder, preying on a wide variety of small animals.
Conservation status Declined in Texas from 1950s to 1970s, possibly as a result of pesticides. Numbers probably now stable in Texas. May be declining in Mexico, probably because of overgrazing of habitat.
Family Hawks and Eagles
Habitat Dry grassland, coastal prairies. In Texas, found mostly on open grassland with scattered shrubs or low trees, such as mesquite, hackberry, and oak. Mostly on coastal prairie, also inland in ranch country. Generally not found where land is farmed or heavily grazed.
A hawk of tropical grasslands and savannahs, the White-tail is fairly common in places on the coastal prairie of Texas. It is a rather bulky bird, with noticeably broad wings and short tail, and it soars with the wings held in a shallow "V." Although it seems particular in its choice of habitat, it is a generalized feeder, preying on a wide variety of small animals.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Hunts by watching for prey either from a perch or while flying; dives steeply when prey is spotted. Sometimes catches flying insects in the air. Is attracted to grass fires, where it will catch creatures trying to escape the flames.


Eggs

2, sometimes 3, rarely 1 or 4. White, sometimes lightly spotted with brown. Incubation is mostly by female, 29-32 days. Young: Apparently both parents bring food to young in nest, but roles of sexes in feeding young not well known. Young are able to fly at about 46-55 days after hatching; may remain with parents and be fed by them for up to 7 months or even longer.


Young

Apparently both parents bring food to young in nest, but roles of sexes in feeding young not well known. Young are able to fly at about 46-55 days after hatching; may remain with parents and be fed by them for up to 7 months or even longer.

Diet

Quite varied. Known to eat rats, mice, pocket gophers, rabbits, birds, snakes, lizards, frogs, crayfish, crabs, insects. Sometimes feeds on carrion.


Nesting

Breeding behavior not thoroughly studied. In one courtship display, both birds land on ground, male goes through act of pulling at grass blades and weeds. Nest site in Texas is usually on top of low tree or shrub, averaging about 10' above ground; sometimes as low as 3', sometimes higher, rarely up to 40'. Nest (apparently built by both sexes) is a bulky platform of sticks, twigs, grasses, weeds. Nest may be used more than once.

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

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

Migration

Not truly migratory, but may move to different areas for winter; for example, some winter on Padre Island, Texas, where they no longer nest.

Help this bird. Donate today
Migration

Not truly migratory, but may move to different areas for winter; for example, some winter on Padre Island, Texas, where they no longer nest.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A musical ke-ke-ke-ke-ke or cutta-cutta-cutta-cutta.