Grey Hawk (Buteo nitidus)

Grey Hawk

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Buteo nitidus | [authority] Latham, 1790 | [UK] Grey Hawk | [FR] Buse cendree | [DE] Zweibinden-Bussard | [ES] aguililla gris | [NL] Grijze Buizerd


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Buteo are broad-winged, broad-tailed hawks, Well adapted for soaring. The bill, legs and talons are of average proportions. There is much colour variation both within the species, and, by way of phases, within individual species. In all cases the young are quite different from adults in that they are all well camouflaged with an overall brown appearance with varying amounts of striping below and paler mottling above.
The 25 species are spread worldwide with the exception of Australasia and much of the Indian sub-continent.

Physical charateristics

The grey Hawk is 46-61 cm in length and weighs 475 g. The adult has a pale grey body, the tail is black with three white bands and the legs are orange.

Immature birds have dark brown upperparts, a pale-banded brown tail, brown-spotted white underparts and a brown streaked buff head and neck. This species is quite short-winged, and has a fast agile flight for a Buteo.

Listen to the sound of Grey Hawk

[audio: Hawk.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 87 cm wingspan max.: 93 cm
size min.: 40 cm size max.: 56 cm
incubation min.: 31 days incubation max.: 33 days
fledging min.: 28 days fledging max.: 33 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 3  


North America, Latin America : Southwest USA to Northcentral Argentina


Open woodland, pasturelands, and generally open country with scattered trees, primarily in arid situations (Tropical and Subtropical zones). In U.S. usually found in riparian woodlands near open areas. Common in hedgerows between crop fields in wintering areas in Mexico.


The nest is of sticks and built high in a tree. The usual clutch is one to three, usually two white eggs, pale blue with red markings. The young take about 6 weeks to fledging.

Feeding habits

The grey Hawk feeds mainly on lizards and snakes, but will also take small mammals, birds and frogs. It usually sits on an open high perch from which it swoops on its prey, but will also hunt from a low glide. The call is a shrill whistled kleee-ooo.

Video Grey Hawk


copyright: D. DesJardin


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 is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>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 (<10,000 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 Grey Hawk Buteo nitidus is a smallish raptor found in open country and forest edges. It is sometimes placed in the genus Asturina as Asturina nitid. It breeds from the southwestern USA and Mexico south to Bolivia, Brazil and central Argentina. It is fairly common on Trinidad, and there have been recent sightings on Tobago.
Grey Hawk status Least Concern


Sedentary in most of its range, Northern populations migratory.

Distribution map

Grey Hawk distribution range map


Title The status of the Gray Hawk in New Mexico
Author(s): JOHN P. HUBBARD
Abstract: On 23 April 1876, near Fort Bayard, Grant County, ..[more]..
Source: The Auk: Vol. 91, No. 1

download full text (pdf)

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