Living Bird Magazine
Harris's HawkParabuteo unicinctus
- ORDER: Accipitriformes
- FAMILY: Accipitridae
A handsome hawk of the arid Southwest, Harris’s Hawk is a standout with bold markings of dark brown, chestnut red, and white, long yellow legs, and yellow markings on its face. The most social of North American raptors, these birds are often found in groups, cooperatively attending nests and hunting together as a team. When hunting, a group of hawks surround their prey, flush it for another to catch, or take turns chasing it. This hawk’s social nature and relative ease with humans has made it popular among falconers and in education programs.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Look out for these raptors on both natural and manmade perches. Harris’ Hawks chose a spot to perch with a good scope of the landscape, so look up. Their dark coloring and predilection to perch in groups will make them stand out from other raptor species in their range.
- Aguililla Rojinegra (Spanish)
- Buse de Harris (French)
- Cool Facts
- Cooperatively hunting groups of Harris's Hawks are more successful at capturing prey than individuals hunting alone. Hawks with more than two members in their group have higher survival rates.
- Although most North American Harris's Hawks nest in spring (March through June), some females lay a second and even a third clutch regardless of whether their first breeding attempt fails or succeeds. Eggs or young have been recorded in every month of the year. Multiple clutches often occur when plentiful food is available.
- Older nestlings and subadults sometimes seem to play by chasing insects, or jumping on sticks in an imitation of prey capture.
- Electrocution from unshielded power poles is a danger to Harris’s Hawks—they can be killed or lose limbs—but other members of the group sometimes come to the aid of injured individuals, providing them with food.
- The Harris's Hawk nests in social units that vary from an adult pair, to as many as seven individuals, including both adults and immatures.
- The oldest known wild Harris’s Hawk in the wild was a male, and at least 15 years old when he was retrapped and rereleased during banding operations in New Mexico in 2001. He had been banded in the same state in 1986. A captive female lived to be 25 years old.