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Broad-Winged Hawks

"Sam Waterston" and "Queeche", by Deb McKenzie. Click to enlarge

    Broad-Winged Hawk

Buteo Platypterus
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Accipitiridae
Genus: Buteo

   
The short, compact, broad-winged hawk is the smallest of the
buteos, or soaring hawks, even though their actions are typical of buteos.   They are often seen flying over eastern forests rather than open country, where they favor eating frogs and toads in the spring, and mice, small rodents, snakes, lizards, large insects and an occasional young game bird at other times.  They tend to feed by dropping down on prey from a branch high in the tree canopy.

Broad-wingeds are about the size of a crow, brownish above with a rufous underbelly marked with broken horizontal, whitish bars below. The bands on the tail of the broad-wing are a good way of telling whether a hawk is mature or immature.  An immature bird has narrow dark bands against a lighter background, while a mature bird has broad bands against a darker background.


D
uring the long migration, which brings U.S. and Canadian broadwings to Southern Cental America and Northern South America, broad-wings congregate in flocks called "kettles", numbering in the thousands.  Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania is one of the best sites to see broad-wings migrate.  They fly an average distance of close to 4,400 miles.  Broad-wings eat migrating dragon flies and song birds while on the migration. Broad-wing numbers appear to be stable, according to the Cornell Ornithology Lab.


It was originally believed that the mid-September timing of most
broad-wing southward migration, had to do with the distance of the migration, and the availability of food. but it turns out to have more to do with the prevalence of rising thermals, which the hawks use to glide themselves from the top of one thermal to the bottom of the next, thus saving the energy spent in straight flying. The occurence of these thermals shift east between Fall and Spring, so the broad-wing's migration resembles a geographical ellipse.

Courtship displays involves whistling calls, and soaring and swooping by both sexes. Small, crude stick nests are set up in deciduous or conifer trees in forests where red-tails and red-shouldered hawks do not nest. Broad-wings rarely use the same nest two years in a row. Two-to-four eggs are incubated by the female for about 30 days.

 Gary and Steve

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Steve & Wendy Hall
PO Box 555, 977 Springfield Road, Wilmington, NY 12997
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