Living Bird Magazine
Zone-tailed HawkButeo albonotatus
- ORDER: Accipitriformes
- FAMILY: Accipitridae
The Zone-tailed Hawk is a sleek, blackish raptor of arid foothills and canyons in the southwestern U.S. These birds have an intriguing similarity to Turkey Vultures—they fly with their wings slightly raised and occasionally rock back and forth as the vultures do. Their lightly barred flight feathers even create a two-toned effect similar to the vulture’s wing pattern. While this could be a coincidence, it’s been suggested that Zone-tailed Hawks may mimic the relatively harmless Turkey Vulture in order to fool their prey of birds, mammals, and lizards..More ID Info
Find This Bird
Finding Zone-tailed Hawks in the United States usually means birding in southern Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas. At this northernmost part of the species’ range, they are migratory, so spring and summer are the best seasons to look. Zone-tailed Hawks hunt in areas of uneven ground: foothills, mesas, cliffs, and canyons, particularly where there are waterways or gaps in the forest. Scan the horizon and landscape for a flying raptor that looks like a Turkey Vulture but has a feathered head and bars in the tail.
- Busardo Aura (Spanish)
- Buse à queue barrée (French)
- Cool Facts
- Zone-tailed Hawks have been expanding their range slowly northward in the United States since the 1990s. During the same period, they have turned up in areas as far away as Nova Scotia and Virginia. Some scientists suggest that “vagrant” sightings such as these are not random events but are a product of expanding populations.
- The Zone-tailed Hawk aggressively defends its nesting territory, attacking animals as large as Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, and humans.
- The Zone-tailed Hawk looks very similar in flight to Turkey Vultures, and it often soars and even sometimes roosts with them. It has been suggested that the hawk is a mimic of the vulture and uses its similarity to sneak up on prey that would not hide from vultures.
- The oldest Zone-tailed Hawk recorded was over 4 years old.