46 - 59cm
1 - 1.2m
0.5 - 1.63kg
10 - 12 yrs
The Harris hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus), officially known as the Harris's hawk and previously as the bay-winged hawk, is a medium-large bird of prey named in honour of ornithologist Edward Harris. Due to its sociable nature it is very easy to train, making it the most popular bird amongst western falconers.
Its former name, the bay-winged hawk, accurately describes its overall colouration, which is brown with reddish shoulders. The tail feathers have a white band at the tip which is referred to in the “unicinctus” part of its scientific name, which means “once girdled”. Its legs are long and yellow. The juveniles are a lighter buff colour.
What Does it Look Like?
What Does it Sound Like?
The Harris hawk is known to emit an incredibly harsh sound which has been described variously as angry or grating. Despite its social nature and tendency to form packs, little evidence exists of them using particular calls to communicate outside of purely territorial purposes, where these calls are commonly used to defend a kill from intruders.
It seems to prefer leporids (rabbits and hares) such as jackrabbits and the eastern and desert cottontails, which together form most of the Harris hawk's diet. It will however take rodents, birds and lizards up to even 2kg in weight, such as full-grown turkeys. This is because its pack-hunting behaviour allows it to take down much larger prey.
What Does it Eat?
Where Does it Nest?
The female builds a compact nest from plant material in a small tree, shrub or cactus and lays between two to four eggs. After being incubated for just over a month, the nestlings will hatch with a light buff colouration before turning brown a week later. They fledge after around 50 days, but may stay with their parents for up to 3 years.
It is found in the Americas – particularly in parts of South America - from the southern US into Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Sightings have been reported in the UK and mainland Europe, but these are escaped birds owing to its popularity in falconry. In the wild, it lives in semi-desert or marshland habitats, perhaps with interspersed woodland.
Where Does it Live?
What is its Status?
It is considered Least Concern as, although the population is falling, its numbers are thought to be large enough for this decline to not pose a significant risk, although no definitive estimates currently exist. Its only threats are those faced by most other bird species, such as habitat destruction and collisions with powerlines.
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