Harriss Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)

Harriss Hawk

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Parabuteo unicinctus | [authority] Temminck, 1824 | [UK] Harriss Hawk | [FR] Buse de Harris | [DE] Wustenbussard | [ES] Busardo Mixto | [NL] Woestijnbuizerd


Monotypic species


Parabuteo is a monotypic genus in the family Accipitridae. There are three subspecies of Harris’s Hawk: A) Parabuteo unicinctus superior: found in Baja California, Arizona, Sonora, and Sinaloa. P. u. superior was believed to have longer tails and wings and to be more blackish than P. u. harrisi. However, the sample size of the original study was quite small, with only five males and six females. Later research has concluded that there is not as strong a physical difference as was originally assumed. Other ecological differences, such as latitudinal cline were also brought up as arguments against the validity of the subspecies segmentation. B) Parabuteo unicinctus harrisi: found in Texas, eastern Mexico, and much of Central America. C) Parabuteo unicinctus unicinctus: found exclusively in South America. It is smaller than the North American subspecies.

Physical charateristics

A black hawk of the Buteo type, with a flashing white rump and white band at the tip of the tail. Shows chestnut areas on thighs and shoulders –
a mark of distinction from other black or melanistic buteos or the much chunkier Black-Hawk. Immature has light, streaked underparts and rusty shoulders; might be confused with Red-shouldered Hawk except for the conspicuous white
at the base of the tail.

Listen to the sound of Harriss Hawk

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/ACCIPITRIFORMES/Accipitridae/sounds/Harriss Hawk.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 110 cm wingspan max.: 120 cm
size min.: 48 cm size max.: 56 cm
incubation min.: 33 days incubation max.: 36 days
fledging min.: 38 days fledging max.: 42 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


North America, Latin America : Southwest USA to South Argentina and Chile. The Harris’s Hawk occurs from the southwestern United States south through Central America and in the drier regions west of the Andes south to Peru. East of the Andes it occurs in the llanos of Venezuela and Colombia and in cerrado, pampas, and chaco from eastern Brazil and Bolivia south to central Argentina and central Chile


River woods, mesquite, brush, cactus deserts.
Found mostly in open dry country. Most common in saguaro cactus desert in Arizona and mesquite brushland in Texas and New Mexico. Also found in trees along rivers, and recently has become resident in suburban areas of some southwestern cities.


Often nests in triads, with two males mated to one female, all three adults cooperating in raising young. Courtship (involving two or more birds) includes soaring, circling, and diving.
Nest: Site usually in small tree or in arms of giant cactus, usually 12-25′ above ground. Nest (built by both sexes) is a bulky structure of sticks, lined with twigs and grass.
Clutch 3 -4, sometimes 1 -5. Pale bluish white, sometimes with brown spots. Incubation mostly by female, 33 –
36 days. At nests with 2 males, both males bring food to female and take short turns sitting on eggs.
Young: Brooded and fed mostly by the female, but most food brought by male(s). Young move out of nest to nearby perches after about 40 days, gradually develop to strong flight. Adults may raise 2-
3 broods per season, and young from earlier nesting may help feed the young in later broods.

Feeding habits

Small mammals, birds, lizards. Feeds on a wide variety of small creatures. Common prey includes ground squirrels, rabbits, wood rats, kangaroo rats, and many medium-sized birds, such as quail and woodp
eckers. Eats large lizards when they are common. Also sometimes large insects.
Behavior: Hunts actively, in low flight, pursuing prey around bushes and thickets. Often two or three hunt together, and a fleeing animal that evades one hawk may be caught by the next; larger prey is often shared by the hawks.

Video Harriss Hawk


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to 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.
Harriss Hawk status Least Concern


The Harris’s Hawk appears to be largely sedentary, although local movements may occur.

Distribution map

Harriss Hawk distribution range map

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