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Gray Hawk

Buteo plagiatus ORDER: ACCIPITRIFORMES FAMILY: ACCIPITRIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

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.

Calls

Gray Hawks make two vocalizations. The first is a 3-note whistled call that is given throughout the breeding season. It is used to define territories, maintain pairs, and advertise locations to potential mates. The call can be rolled, slurred, and exaggerated at times. Gray Hawks also give a single-note alarm call, which females give mainly when irritated or alarmed. It can also indicate excitement during prey exchange or copulation, disputes between males, or food begging by nestlings. This call is used year-round.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

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.

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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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