Living Bird Magazine
Broad-winged HawkButeo platypterus
- ORDER: Accipitriformes
- FAMILY: Accipitridae
One of the greatest spectacles of migration is a swirling flock of Broad-winged Hawks on their way to South America. Also known as “kettles,” flocks can contain thousands of circling birds that evoke a vast cauldron being stirred with an invisible spoon. A small, stocky raptor with black-and-white bands on the tail, the Broad-winged Hawk is a bird of the forest interior and can be hard to see during the nesting season. Its call is a piercing, two-parted whistle.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Broad-winged Hawks are most easily seen during migration at hawkwatches such as Hawk Ridge, Minnesota, and Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania. They form sometimes enormous aerial flocks, especially in southern Texas, in Mexico along the Gulf coast in Veracruz, and along the shores of the Great Lakes. If you’re looking for Broad-winged Hawks during summer, go to an eastern or northern forest and listen for their piercing whistles, often given while circling above the forest canopy, when they are easier to see.
- Busardo Aliancho (Spanish)
- Petite Buse (French)
- Cool Facts
- Each fall, hundreds of thousands of Broad-winged Hawks leave the northern forests for South America. They fill the sky in sometimes huge flocks that can contain thousands of birds at a time, and these “kettles” are a prime attraction at many hawkwatch sites. As they move from the broad stretches of North America to narrow parts of Central America their numbers get concentrated, leading people to describe places such as Veracruz, Mexico, and Panama as a “river of raptors.”
- Scientists used satellite transmitters to track four Broad-winged Hawks as they migrated south in the fall. The hawks migrated an average of 4,350 miles to northern South America, traveling 69 miles each day. Once on their wintering grounds the hawks did not move around much, staying on average within a 1-square-mile area.
- Late Pleistocene fossils of Broad-winged Hawks, up to 400,000 years old, have been unearthed in Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Virginia, and Puerto Rico.
- The oldest Broad-winged Hawk on record was a male, and at least 18 years, 4 months old when it was recaptured after sustaining an injury in Florida in 1987, the same state where he was banded in 1970. He was later released.