|Conservation status||Very uncommon in Florida (perhaps fewer than 500), but numbers probably stable. May be increasing in Mexico, and now showing up more often in the southwestern U.S.|
|Family||Hawks and Eagles|
|Habitat||Pines, wood edges, cypress swamps, mangroves. Main feature of habitat in Florida is presence of open country next to woodland. Trees involved may be pines, cypress, mangroves, or mixed swamp forest, but must have large expanses of open prairie, farmland, or marsh nearby. In tropics, found in similarly semi-open country, in both lowlands and mountains.|
Searches for prey mainly in flight, rarely from a perch. Often appears to hang motionless in the air, or glides very slowly into the wind. Dives steeply after prey is spotted. Mostly attempts to catch birds perched in tops of trees or shrubs.
2, sometimes 1-3. White to pale bluish white, sometimes with brown spots. Incubation is apparently only by female, about 34 days. Male brings food to female during incubation period. Young: Female remains with young most of the time while they are small; male brings food, and female feeds it to young. Development of young and age at first flight not well known.
Female remains with young most of the time while they are small; male brings food, and female feeds it to young. Development of young and age at first flight not well known.
Mostly small birds. In Florida, eats birds ranging in size from small songbirds up to Mourning Dove and Sharp-shinned Hawk. Occasional items in diet (in Florida and elsewhere) include snakes, lizards, tree frogs, rodents, insects.
Breeding behavior not well known; has been studied mostly in Florida, not much in wide tropical range. In spring, male displays over nesting territory with aerial acrobatics, alternately climbing and swooping, flying in high circles, diving headfirst. Nest site is in tree, especially pine or cypress, usually higher than 25' and often near top of tree but under canopy of foliage. Nest is bulky platform of sticks, twigs, Spanish moss, often with leafy green branches added for lining. Male brings most material, female builds nest.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
Download Our Bird Guide App
Pairs nesting in southern Florida may be permanent residents, but those from northern Florida winter in southern part of peninsula. Migration is late in fall, early in spring. Birds from Mexico have very rarely strayed north to Texas.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA high-pitched squeal, kleeeea, dropping in pitch at end; usually silent away from nest.
Learn more about this sound collection.
How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Short-tailed Hawk
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Short-tailed Hawk
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.