Short-tailed Hawk

Short-tailed Hawk


Profile Short-tailed Hawk
[Authority] Vieillot, 1816 | [group] Kites, hawks and eagles | [order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Buteo brachyurus | [UK] Short-tailed Hawk |

[Authority] Vieillot, 1816 | [group] Kites, hawks and eagles | [order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Buteo brachyurus | [UK] Short-tailed Hawk | [FR] Buse a queue courte | [DE] Kurzschwanz-Bussard | [ES] Busardo Colicorto | [NL] Kortstaartbuizerd | copyright picture

copyright: S. Behrens

The adult, in its normal phase has some white around the base of its bill. Its crown and back are dark brown to almost black. There is some partly concealed white on its nape. The upper-tail coverts are tipped with grey, whilst the tail itself is greyish brown, narrowly tipped with white, and with a black band near the tip and three or more narrower black bars, which reduce in size and clarity in older birds.
The wing is black above, with paler secondaries. The sides of the head and neck are dark like the crown, setting off the white throat, which is continuous with the white under parts. The under-wing coverts are white. The lower surface of the tail and the base of the flight feathers are pale grey with feint barring; and black ends to the primaries. There is also a black phase in which the bird is sooty black throughout including the under-wing coverts. Only the tail, wings, white forehead and nape are as in normal phase.
The eyes are brown; the bill black, bluish at its base, and the cere and legs yellow. Florida birds are slightly larger and perhaps slightly different in colour from those of Mexico and Central America.
Immature birds are edged with buff or white above. The tail has more black bars, up to six or eight, the last being no wider than the others. Below it is white or buff, with the dark of its back encroaching on the sides of its neck and sometimes with a few scattered dark shaft streaks. It is also a deeper buff on its thighs.
Black phase immatures are like the adults, but the tail has more bars, and the body feathers have half-concealed white or buff, which on lower surface sometimes produces a spotted effect. In Florida the two phases occur in about equal numbers.

The habitat of this species is mixed woodland-savannah. Most nests are located in or adjacent to forested wetlands, such as large cypress strand swamps, mature slash pines on the fringes of swamps, wet flatwoods, and loblolly bay swamps. Most foraging occurs from high-altitude soaring over adjacent open to scrubby dry prairies, oak scrub, marsh, and mangrove savannah. Surprisingly for a Buteo, prey are mainly small birds such as Eastern Meadowlarks and Red-Winged Blackbirds, which are captured at the end of long, falcon-like vertical stoops.

Buteo brachyurus is widespread throughout south and central America. It is resident locally in peninsular Florida (USA), and from Sinaloa and Tamaulipas (Mexico) south through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, to Colombia, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

This bird eats mainly rodents, birds, and large lizards. Insects are also occasionally taken (wasps and grass hoppers).

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence 30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from]

The nests are made of sticks, lined with finer sticks and green leaves. They are quite large for the size of the bird, usually it nests in a cypress, but also in magnolia, gum, man-groves, and cabbage palms, at any height between 3and about 30 meter. Both birds build. The eggs are typical of the genus, sometimes unspotted dull white, but usually with brown spots and blotches. Laying dates: late January to early May.

Florida population shifts to South part of state in winter, but apparently does not cross much water, and not recorded from Cuba. Situation in central America rather confusing, with coastal Mexican populations partly resident, but migratory flights reported in South Veracruz, and also in Honduras and Costa Rica, but not in Panama. No migration documented in rest of range, where presumably sedentary.


  1. Measurements
  2. spanwidth min.: 85 cm
  3. spanwidth max.: 95 cm
  4. size min.: 37 cm
  5. size max.: 43 cm
  6. Breeding
  7. incubation min.: 33 days
  8. incubation max.: 35 days
  9. fledging min.: 0 days
  10. fledging max.: 35 days
  11. broods 1
  12. eggs min.: 1
  13. eggs max.: 3
  14. Conservation Status
  15. Short-tailed Hawk status Least Concern


  1. Buteo brachyurus brachyurus
  2. South America
  3. Buteo brachyurus fuliginosus
  4. s Florida (USA), e Mexico to Panama
  5. Buteo brachyurus
  6. LA e Mexico to n Argentina, also s Florida
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