Photo: Tom Vezo/Vireo

White-tailed Hawk

Geranoaetus 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.
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  • adult, dark morph
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  • adult with nestlings
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.

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

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

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.

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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.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Hawks and Eagles Hawk-like Birds

White-tailed Hawk

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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