Mon . 19 May 2019

Harris's hawk

harris's hawk, harris hawk pictures
P u harrisi
P u superior
P u unicinctus


Falco harrisii Audubon 1839
Buteo harrisii Audubon 1840

The Harris's hawk Parabuteo unicinctus formerly known as the bay-winged hawk or dusky hawk, is a medium-large bird of prey that breeds from the southwestern United States south to Chile, central Argentina, and Brazil Birds are sometimes reported at large in Western Europe, especially Britain, but it is a popular species in falconry and these records almost certainly all refer to escapes from captivity

The name is derived from the Greek para, meaning beside, near or like, and the Latin buteo, referring to a kind of buzzard; uni meaning once; and cinctus meaning girdled, referring to the white band at the tip of the tail2 John James Audubon gave this bird its English name in honor of his ornithological companion, financial supporter, and friend Edward Harris3

The Harris's hawk is notable for its behavior of hunting cooperatively in packs consisting of tolerant groups, while other raptors often hunt alone Harris hawks' social nature has been attributed to their intelligence, which makes them easy to train and have made them a popular bird for use in falconry4


  • 1 Description
    • 11 Juvenile
    • 12 Subspecies
    • 13 Distribution and habitat
  • 2 Behavior
    • 21 Feeding
    • 22 Hunting
    • 23 Breeding
  • 3 Relationship with humans
    • 31 Falconry
    • 32 In art
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links
    • 51 Historical material


Adult male

This medium-large hawk is roughly intermediate in size between a peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus and a red-tailed hawk Buteo jamaicensis Harris's hawks range in length from 46 to 59 cm 18 to 23 in and generally have a wingspan of about 103 to 120 cm 41 to 47 in56 They exhibit sexual dimorphism with the females being larger by about 35% In the United States, the average weight for adult males is about 701 g 1545 lb, with a range of 546 to 850 g 1204 to 1874 lb, while the adult female average is 1,029 g 2269 lb, with a range of 766 to 1,633 g 1689 to 3600 lb78 They have dark brown plumage with chestnut shoulders, wing linings, and thighs,9 white on the base and tip of the tail,10 long, yellow legs and a yellow cere11 The vocalizations of the Harris's hawk are very harsh sounds5


Juvenile in a falconry demonstration

The juvenile Harris's hawk is mostly streaked with buff, and appears much lighter than the dark adults When in flight, the undersides of the juveniles' wings are buff-colored with brown streaking They can look unlike adults at first glance, but the identical chestnut plumage is an aid for identification11verification needed


There are three subspecies of Harris's hawk:

  • P u superior: found in Baja California, Arizona, Sonora, and Sinaloa P u superior was believed to have longer tails and wings and to be more blackish than P u harrisi However, the sample size of the original study was quite small, with only five males and six females Later research has concluded that there is not as strong a physical difference as was originally assumed12 Other ecological differences, such as latitudinal cline were also brought up as arguments against the validity of the subspecies segmentation13
  • P u harrisi: found in Texas, eastern Mexico, and much of Central America13
  • P u unicinctus: found exclusively in South America It is smaller than the North American subspecies13

Distribution and habitatedit

Harris's hawks live in sparse woodland and semi-desert, as well as marshes with some trees in some parts of their range Howell and Webb 1995, including mangrove swamps, as in parts of their South American range14 Harris's hawks are permanent residents and do not migrate13 Important perches and nest supports are provided by scattered larger trees or other features eg, power poles, woodland edges, standing dead trees, live trees, and boulders, and saguaros15

The wild Harris's hawk population is declining due to habitat loss; however, under some circumstances, they have been known to move into developed areas16


At one week of age

This species occurs in relatively stable groups A dominance hierarchy occurs in Harris's hawks, wherein the mature female is at the dominant bird, followed by the adult male and then the young of previous years Groups typically include from 2 to 7 birds Not only do birds cooperate in hunting, they also assist in the nesting process17 No other bird of prey is known to hunt in groups as routinely as this species18


Eating chick's leg

The diet of the Harris's hawk consists of small creatures including birds, lizards, mammals, and large insects Because it often hunts in groups, the Harris's hawk can also take down larger prey19 Although not particularly common, the Harris's hawk may take prey weighing over 2 kg 44 lb, such as adult jackrabbits, great blue heron Ardea herodias and half-grown wild turkeys Meleagris gallapavo202122 The desert cottontail Syvilagus auduboni, the leading prey species in the north of the Harris's hawk range, usually weighs 800 g 18 lb or less23 Undoubtedly because it pursues large prey often, this hawk has larger and stronger feet, with long talons, and a larger, more prominent hooked beak than most other raptors around its size8 Locally, other buteonine hawks, including the ferruginous hawk, the red-tailed hawk and the white-tailed hawk also hunt primarily cottontails and jackrabbits, but each are bigger, weighing about 500 g 18 oz, 300 g 11 oz and 200 g 71 oz, respectively, more on average than a Harris's hawk2425262728

In the Southwestern United States, the most common prey species in descending order of prevalence are desert cottontail Syvilagus auduboni, eastern cottontail Syvilagus floridanus, black-tailed jackrabbit Lepus californicus, ground squirrels Ammopsermophilus spp and Spermophilus spp, woodrats Neotoma spp, kangaroo rats Dipodomys spp, pocket gophers Geomys and Thomomys spp, Gambel's quail Callipepla gambelii, scaled quail C squamata, northern bobwhite Colinus virginianus, cactus wren Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus, northern mockingbird Mimus polyglottos, desert spiny lizards Sceloporus magister, and skinks Eumeces spp2930 In the tropics, Harris's hawks have adapted to taking prey of several varieties, including those like chickens and European rabbits introduced by man3132 In Chile, the common degu Octodon degus makes up 675% of the prey33


While most raptors are solitary, only coming together for breeding and migration, Harris's hawks will hunt in cooperative groups of two to six This is believed to be an adaptation to the lack of prey in the desert climate in which they live In one hunting technique, a small group flies ahead and scouts, then another group member flies ahead and scouts, and this continues until prey is bagged and shared In another, all the hawks spread around the prey and one bird flushes it out34 Groups of Harris's hawks tend to be more successful at capturing prey than lone hawks, with groups of two to four individuals having ~10% higher succes rates per extra individual35


They nest in small trees, shrubby growth, or cacti The nests are often compact, made of sticks, plant roots, and stems, and are often lined with leaves, moss, bark and plant roots They are built mainly by the female There are usually two to four white to blueish white eggs sometimes with a speckling of pale brown or gray The nestlings start out light buff, but in five to six days turn a rich brown36

Very often, there will be three hawks attending one nest: two males and one female19 Whether or not this is polyandry is debated, as it may be confused with backstanding one bird standing on another's back37 The female does most of the incubation The eggs hatch in 31 to 36 days The young begin to explore outside the nest at 38 days, and fledge, or start to fly, at 45 to 50 days The female sometimes breeds two or three times in a year36 Young may stay with their parents for up to three years, helping to raise later broods Nests are known to be predated by coyotes Canis latrans, golden eagles Aquila chrysaetos, red-tailed hawks Buteo jamaicensis, great horned owls Bubo virginianus and flocks of common ravens Corvus corax, predators possibly too formidable to be fully displaced by the Harris's hawk's cooperative nest defenses38 In Chile, black-chested buzzard-eagles Geranoaetus melanoleucus are likely predators39

Relationship with humansedit

Young male falconry


Since about 1980, Harris's hawks have been increasingly used in falconry and are now the most popular hawks in the West outside of Asia for that purpose, as they are one of the easiest to train and the most social40

Training to catch rabbits

Their desire and ability to work closely with their falconer allows them to take a larger and more varied score of game than any other falcon or hawk species4 They are effective on both bird and mammalian prey, and are willing to tackle game larger than themselves Though not quite as athletic as either falcons or accipiters, the close and cunning ways they learn to work as part of a falconry team more than makes up for their somewhat lesser speed and endurance However, their cooperativeness as falconry birds may lead to overconfidence in the novice falconer, and the mistaken belief that corners can be cut in training the hawk, leading to some poorly trained birds simply flying away and never coming back Growing colonies of feral Harris's hawks have been reported in locations outside of the bird's natural range as a resultcitation needed

A falconer's hawk Canada

Trained Harris's hawks have been used to remove an unwanted pigeon population from London's Trafalgar Square41 and from the tennis courts at Wimbledon42full citation needed

In artedit

John James Audubon illustrated the Harris's hawk in The Birds of America published, London 1827–38 as Plate 392 with the title "Louisiana Hawk -Buteo harrisi" The image was engraved and colored by the Robert Havell, London workshops in 1837 The original watercolor by Audubon was purchased by the New York History Society where it remains to this day January 2009citation needed


  1. ^ BirdLife International 2012 "Parabuteo unicinctus" IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version 20132 International Union for Conservation of Nature Retrieved 26 November 2013 
  2. ^ Jobling, James A 1991 A Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names ISBN 0-19-854634-3 
  3. ^ National Audubon Society "Audubon" Audubon Retrieved 2013-04-29 
  4. ^ a b Beebe, Frank 1984 A Falconry Manual Hancock House Publishers, ISBN 0-88839-978-2, page 81
  5. ^ a b Udvardy, Miklos D F 2001 National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds 'Western Region' ISBN 0-679-42851-8 
  6. ^ Clark, W S and B K Wheeler 1987 A Field Guide to Hawks of North America Houghton Mifflin Co Boston
  7. ^ Dunning, John B Jr 1993 CRC Handbook of Avian Masses ISBN 0-8493-4258-9 
  8. ^ a b Hamerstrom, F 1978 External sex characters of Harris' Hawks in winter Raptor Res 12:1–14
  9. ^ National Geographic Society 1983 Birds of North America ISBN 0-87044-472-7 
  10. ^ Sibley, David Allen 2000 National Audubon Society The Sibley Guide to Birds ISBN 0-679-45122-6 
  11. ^ a b Rappole, John H 2000 Birds of the Southwest ISBN 0-89096-958-2 
  12. ^ Bednarz, J C 1988 "Harris' hawk subspecies: is superior larger or different than harrisi" in Proceedings of the southwest raptor management symposium and workshop Washington, DC pp 294–300 
  13. ^ a b c d Bednarz, James C 1995 "Harris's Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus" 
  14. ^ in Spanish Olmos Fábio & Robson Silva e Silva 2003 Guará-Ambiente, Flora e Fauna dos Manguezais de Santos-Cubatão Empresa das Artes, ISBN 85-89138-06-2
  15. ^ Bednarz, J C and J D Ligon 1988 A study of the ecological bases of cooperative breeding in the Harris' hawk Ecology 69:1176–1187
  16. ^ Discoll, James T "Harris' Hawk" Retrieved 2007-11-19 
  17. ^ Dawson, J W and R W Mannan 1991 The role of territoriality in the social organization of Harris' hawks Auk 108:661–672
  18. ^ Griffin, C R 1976 A preliminary comparison of Texas and Arizona Harris' Hawks Parabuteo unicinctus populations Raptor Res 10:50–54
  19. ^ a b Kaufmann, Kenn 1996 Lives of North American Birds ISBN 0-395-77017-3 
  20. ^ Bednarz, J C 1988 A comparative study of the breeding ecology of Harris's and Swainson's hawks in southeastern New Mexico Condor 90:311–323
  21. ^ Woodward, HD 2003 Lone Harris' Hawk Kills Great Blue Heron The Raptor Research Foundation 1:85–86
  22. ^ Houcke, HH 1971 Predation By a White-Tailed Hawk and a Harris' Hawk on a Wild Turkey Poult Condor 4: 475
  23. ^ Bednarz, J C, J W Dawson, and W H Whaley 1988 Harris' Hawk Pages 71–82 in Proceedings of the southwest raptor management symposium and workshop Glinski, R L, B G Pendleton, M B Moss, M N LeFranc, Jr, B A Millsap, and S W Hoffman, Eds Natl Wildl Fed Washington, DC
  24. ^ Smith, D G and J R Murphy 1978 Biology of the Ferruginous Hawk in central Utah Sociobiology 3:79–98
  25. ^ Thurow, T L, C M White, R P Howard, and J F Sullivan 1980 Raptor ecology of Raft River valley, Idaho EG&G Idaho, Inc Idaho Falls
  26. ^ Smith, D G and J R Murphy 1973 Breeding ecology of raptors in the East Great Basin Desert of Utah Brigham Young Univ Sci Bull, Biol Ser Vol 18:1–76
  27. ^ Farquhar, C C 1986 Ecology and breeding behavior of the White-tailed Hawk on the northern coastal prairies of Texas PhD diss Texas A & M Univ College Station
  28. ^ Dunning Jr, John B Editor 1992 CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses CRC Press ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5
  29. ^ Mader, W J 1975 Biology of the Harris' hawk in southern Arizona Living Bird 14:59–85
  30. ^ Brannon, J D 1980 The reproductive ecology of a Texas Harris's hawk Parabuteo unicinctus harrisi population Master's Thesis Univ of Texas, Austin
  31. ^ Nutting, C C 1883 On a collection of birds from the Hacienda "La Palma," Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica, with critical notes by Robert Ridgway Proc US Natl Mus 19825:382–409
  32. ^ Johnson, A W 1965 The birds of Chile and adjacent regions of Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru Platt Establecimientos Graficos, Buenos Aires
  33. ^ Jaksic, F M, J L Yanez, and R P Schlatter 1980 Prey of the Harris' hawk in central Chile Auk 97:196–198
  34. ^ Cook, William E 1997 Avian Desert Predators ISBN 3-540-59262-8 
  35. ^ Dawson, James "The cooperative breeding system of the Harris' Hawk in Arizona" The University of Arizona The University of Arizona Retrieved 17 November 2017 
  36. ^ a b Baicich, Paul J; Harrison, Colin J O 1997 Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds ISBN 0-691-12295-4 
  37. ^ Ligon, J David 1999 The Evolution of Avian Breeding Systems Oxford Ornithology Series 10 Oxford University Press ISBN 019854913X Retrieved 4 August 2013 
  38. ^ Dawson, J W and R W Mannan 1991 Dominance hierarchies and helper contributions in Harris' Hawks Auk 108:649–660
  39. ^ Jiménez, J E, & Jaksić, F M 1989 Behavioral ecology of grey eagle-buzzards, Geranoaetus melanoleucus, in central Chile Condor 913–921
  40. ^ "Raptors page" Userscybercitydk Archived from the original on 2013-03-05 Retrieved 2013-04-29 
  41. ^ Mount, Harry 2009-10-07 "The £60,000 killer loose in Trafalgar Square" Dailymailcouk Retrieved 2013-04-29 
  42. ^ BBC4, 7 July 2017

External linksedit

  • Peregrine Fund page on Harris' hawk
  • Harris's hawks in falconry videos, Photo album, articles In Italian
  • Harris' hawks hunting in pack video

Historical materialedit

  • John James Audubon "Louisiana Hawk", Ornithological Biography volume 5 1839 Illustration from Birds of America octavo edition, 1840

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