Skip to main content

Broad-Winged Hawk

Buteo platypterus

The broad-winged hawk is a medium-sized hawk with a stout body and a medium length tail. These hawks measure 13.4 to 17.6 inches (34 to 45 cm) in length, with a wingspan of 31.9 to 39.4 inches (81 to 100 cm). As its name indicates, this species is characterized by a broad pair of wings, which are pale with a dark trailing. The tail is dark with one thick white band in the middle and one thinner band near the tail base and tip. The broad-winged hawk has a dark face, white throat, reddish chest, and reddish striped along the sides. The young hawks are similar to the adults, however, their underparts are white with streaks down the center, and their tail is buff with thin dark bands. The broad-winged hawk call is a thin, high whistled “kee-eee.”


Broad-winged hawks breed in continuous deciduous or mixed deciduous forests in North America. They winter in tropical forests in Central and South America. During their fall and winter migrations, huge number of migrating birds can be seen from hawk watch sites. They usually migrate in large flocks or “kettles” that can range from a couple of individuals to thousands.


Broad-winged hawks are carnivores, eating small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and large insects. They are aerial divers and swoop down on their prey from perches high in the canopy.


Broad-winged hawk eggs and chicks are most vulnerable to predation, especially from raccoons, porcupines, American crows, black bears and great horned owls.  In North America, broad-winged hawks are considered quite common, but on a global scale populations are believed to be declining. The species is protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Act and CITES Appendix II.  Besides predation, primary threats to the broad-winged hawk include trapping, shooting, and vehicle collisions.


As forests disappear, countless species are threatened with extinction.