Great Black Hawk (Buteogallus urubitinga)

Great Black Hawk

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Buteogallus urubitinga | [authority] Gmelin, 1788 | [UK] Great Black Hawk | [FR] Buse urubu | [DE] Schwarzbussard | [ES] Busardo-negro Urubitinga | [NL] Zwarte Arendbuizerd


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Buteogallus urubitinga LA Mexico to n Argentina


Members of the genus Buteogallus are small to quite large hawks. Their wings are short to medium in length; broad and rounded; the tail is of medium length. They have coarse, heavy, rather long legs. The lores and adjacent areas are naked to varying degrees. Some feathers on the crown and nape are pointed, forming a slight crest. Adults are blackish with a white banded tail and often with some rufous in wing and (in one species) body plumage. Immature plumage is very different from adult.
The genus is present from south-western United States to Argentina, including the islands of Cuba and St Vincent. There are five species.

Physical charateristics

The adult Great Black Hawk is 56 to 64cm long and weighs 1.1 kg. It has very broad wings, and is mainly black. The short tail is white with a broad black tip. The bill is black and the legs and cere are yellow.

The sexes are similar, but immature birds are dark brown above with spotting and streaks. Their underparts are buff with dark spots, and the tail has a number of black and dusky bars.

Listen to the sound of Great Black Hawk

[audio: Black Hawk.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 115 cm wingspan max.: 135 cm
size min.: 56 cm size max.: 64 cm
incubation min.: 37 days incubation max.: 43 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 43 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 2  


Latin America : Mexico to North Argentina


Normally a solitary species living in the subtropial to tropical forest zones. Prefers dense forest galleries along rivers but also savannas with patches of trees or ever dry country with scattered trees. Can be found up to 1600 meter heights.


Nests at the start of the rainy season or the end of the dry season. Nest is built of sticks on top of other nests or f.e. in a power pole. Usually one brood with a clutch size of 1 to 2 eggs of which one chicken is reared. Fledging period not exactly known but young seen begging for food on the nest seven months after hatching.

Feeding habits

The Great Black Hawk feeds mainly on reptiles, other small vertebrates and large insects, often hunted on foot. feeds also on carrion from large animals and roadkills. This species is often seen soaring above woodlands.

Video Great Black Hawk


copyright: S. Behrens


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The Great Black Hawk is a resident breeding bird in the tropical New World, from Mexico through Central America to Peru, Trinidad and northern Argentina. It resembles the Common Black Hawk, but is larger with a different call and tail pattern. A fairly common breeding species in Suriname found in the interior savannas.
Great Black Hawk status Least Concern


Mostly sendetary, Northern population wanders southwards.

Distribution map

Great Black Hawk distribution range map


Author(s): Susan E. Lewis and Robert M. Timm
Abstract: Little is known about the diet or hunting strategi..[more]..

download full text (pdf)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *