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Short-tailed Hawk

Buteo brachyurus

Length: 16 inches Wingspan: 36 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Two color morphs, a dark and a light.  Light is dark above, white below.  Dark morph has completely dark plumage.

Short-tailed Hawk - Buteo brachyurusThe Short-tailed Hawk is a tropical hawk that only reaches the U.S. in the southern half of Florida.  Vagrants have also been spotted in extreme southern Texas and Arizona.  Their range extends southward in to much of Mexico, Central America, and much of South America.  Short-tailed Hawks have very different dietary preferences than other Buteo hawks, with a strong preference for feeding on small birds. 

Habitat: Typically found in edge habitat where large open expanses of grassland, wetland, or farmland meet forests.

Diet: Mostly feeds on small birds, but they will also occasionally feed on rodents, small snakes, lizards, frogs, and large insects.

Behavior: Typically hunts by slowly gliding or circling, diving after prey when spotted.  They will often search for prey from a relatively high flight of a few hundred feet.

Nesting: The nest of a Short-tailed Hawk is a large platform of sticks, with moss, small twigs, or leafy branches used to line the nest.  Both sexes help to construct the nest, although the male primarily just brings nest material while the female actually builds the nest.  The female alone incubates the eggs, but both sexes will help to raise the young.

Song: Long clear scream, as well as shorter high-pitched calls and screams.

Migration: Many Short-tailed Hawks are permanent residents.  However, those in the northern part of their Florida range typically move to the southern part of the Florida peninsula for the winter.  Some Mexican populations may also be migratory.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Short-tailed Hawk sightings

Similar Species: Broad-winged Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, White-tailed Hawk

Conservation Status: There are currently no perceived major threats to Short-tailed Hawk populations, and the IUCN cites it as a species of "Least Concern". 

Further Information: 1) Cornell's Neotropical Birds - Short-tailed Hawk

2) University of Michigan's Animal Diversity Web - Short-tailed Hawk

3) - Short-tailed Hawk

Photo Information: Photo by Terry Sohl - Everglades National Park, Florida


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Short-tailed Hawk - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Short-tailed Hawk Photos
 Short-tailed Hawk - Buteo brachyurus