- ORDER: Accipitriformes
- FAMILY: Accipitridae
A sharply marked, trim raptor of subtropical woodlands, the Short-tailed Hawk is often first seen as a speck soaring high in the sky, scanning for prey. They occur in dark morphs (more frequent in Florida) with blackish-brown plumage offset by silvery white barring in the wings and tail; or as light morphs with brown upperparts and neat white underparts. These unusual hawks hunt on high for birds, stooping down on them in sudden dives and picking them right off their perches.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Short-tailed Hawks are fairly numerous across their broad range in the Americas, but can be hard to find as they soar high in the air. In Florida, home to only about 500 individuals, try the autumn hawkwatch in the Florida Keys. In winter, Key West often has a few soaring high over town by 10 a.m., as well as parts of Everglades National Park (especially Fish-eating Creek). Scan the sky along forest edges, and remember that these dark birds often hold their wings slightly raised, making them look like vultures.
- Busardo Colicorto (Spanish)
- Buse à queue courte (French)
- Cool Facts
- Short-tailed Hawks are specialist predators of birds. They can catch species as small as Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and as big as Northern Bobwhite, from spectacular high-altitude dives.
- The Short-tailed Hawk is a buteo, a group of hawks known for their broad wings and short tails. Within this group, its name is something of a misnomer, as several other Buteo species have tails just as short.
- Florida’s isolated population of Short-tailed Hawk migrates southward to spend the winter in the southern peninsula and Florida Keys. The Florida Keys Hawkwatch, at Curry Hammock State Park, is a great place to see the species, with up to 60 sightings over the two-month count, and occasional sightings of small flocks (3–11 birds).
- Only about 500 Short-tailed Hawks inhabit the U.S., 500 miles from the next nearest breeding population (in Mexico).
- As is true of many Buteo hawks, Short-tailed has two plumages: a dark morph and a light morph. In Florida, dark morphs outnumber light morphs, but the opposite is true elsewhere in this species’ range. In both morphs, the adult male and female are identically plumaged, but females are larger.