Living Bird Magazine
Gray HawkButeo plagiatus
- ORDER: Accipitriformes
- FAMILY: Accipitridae
A tropical species that barely crosses the border into Arizona and Texas, the Gray Hawk is an elegant, raincloud-gray raptor with neatly barred underparts. They spend their days gracefully soaring over open areas or perched in cottonwoods, willows, and mesquites along lowland streams. They patiently watch for lizards, then catch them with a swift dart toward the ground. Gray Hawks are small for a hawk in the genus Buteo, and their longish tails and flap-and-glide flight style can make them resemble accipiters.More ID Info
Find This Bird
To find Gray Hawks in their very limited United States range, visit cottonwood and willow stands along rivers in southern Arizona or the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas. During breeding season, listen for their whistled calls in wooded lowlands. They can be very inconspicuous as they sit perched in the forest canopy; if you can’t find them there then try scanning the skies in late morning and afternoon, when Gray Hawks soaring in the heat can be quite easy to pick out.
- Busardo Gris Norteño (Spanish)
- Buse grise (French)
- Cool Facts
- Gray Hawks belongs to the genus Buteo, but they are so unusual in appearance—smaller, with a longish tail, short rounded wings, and accipiterlike flight style—that it was once included in its own genus, Asturina.
- The Gray Hawk's range extends throughout most of the Neotropics. In fact, this species used to be called Mexican Goshawk due to both its accipiterlike appearance and range.
- Gray Hawks eat mostly lizards, and they prey upon many different species. The Gray Hawk's range in Arizona overlaps with one the highest areas of lizard diversity in the country.
- Both male and female Gray Hawks help build the nest, using live twigs and branches from the tree they are nesting in. Their courtship displays consist of steep, coordinated dives and aerial acrobatics.