Ornate Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus ornatus)

Ornate Hawk-Eagle

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Spizaetus ornatus | [authority] Daudin, 1800 | [UK] Ornate Hawk-Eagle | [FR] Aigle orne | [DE] Prachtadler | [ES] aguila-azor Galana | [NL] Bonte Kuifarend


Monotypic species


The genus Spizaetus is a genus of ten species. It is a tropical genus of forest eagles, closely related to a couple of other genera of specialised eagles. There is a large variation in size – members of this genus range from small to rather large eagles, and are variable in their proportions. The common thread is to be found in their basic outline – they are all slender birds with short, rounded wings and rounded tails (well adapted to manoeuvre through dense forest). Most, but not all, are crested.

Physical charateristics

The Ornate Hawk Eagle has a black pointed crest and crown. Head, sides of the neck and breast are bright chestnut. Underparts are white, barred with black, but chin, throat and upper breast are white. Upperparts are blackish or dark brown; feathers have brown base and narrow white tips. Underparts of flight feathers are pale grey, barred with four black stripes. This Eagle has a long and rounded dark brown tail, barred with broad black bands. Legs are feathered, white streaked with black. Powerful feet are yellow with long talons. Eyes are orange or yellow. Bill is hooked and black, with pale blue grey lores and yellow cere. Both sexes are similar, but female is slightly larger than male. Juvenile has white head, short crest and neck. Body and tail are brown, paler than adults. It reaches adult plumage in two or three years.

Listen to the sound of Ornate Hawk-Eagle

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

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: cm wingspan max.: cm
size min.: 58 cm size max.: 67 cm
incubation min.: 45 days incubation max.: 48 days
fledging min.: 66 days fledging max.: 48 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Latin America : Southeast Mexico to North Argentina


Ornate Hawk Eagles live in tropical forests and adjacent open lands, from lowland swamps to up to 2000 to 3000 meter.


During courtship display, pair glides together, performing flight displays, and then, while female is perched, male performs circles with shallow dives high in the air, alternately diving and rising again, with an angle of 45 degrees, calling the female. It dives down with half folded wings, on a short distance, repeating indefinitely the process. Male may perform looping movements, and sometimes complete loop. At this time, it becomes very noisy, and utters loud calls and musical notes. During these displays, male shows its conspicuous chestnut colour on the sides of the neck. Pair may touch talons in flight, as female turns on her back.
Ornate Hawk Eagle’s nest is located high in a small tree, generally in a fork. It is very bulky, made with sticks. Female lays one single egg. Incubation lasts about 44 to 48 days, by female. While chick is at nest, female feeds it, with food brought by the male, within few hundred feet of the nest. Male gives the food to the female, but it doesn’t feed the chick directly. When young is able to defend itself, both parents hunt for it. When the young has fledged, 10 to 13 weeks after hatching, male appears to provide for the young bird. It will be fed by both parents for up to one year after fledging. This species probably breeds only every third years.

Feeding habits

The Ornate Hawk Eagle hunts from a perch, within the forest or at the edge. Prey is taken on ground, snatched from a branch, or taken in flight. This raptor often hunts with stealth and ambush style, moving inconspicuously from perch to perch. Feeds on small mammals such as squirrels, medium-sized birds such as Little blue Herons, chickens, parrots, and sometimes reptiles.

Video Ornate Hawk-Eagle


copyright: Alex Garcia


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 may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to 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.
Ranges from Central and South America, from Central Mexico to northern Argentina and Paraguay, but also in Trinidad and Tobago. In Suriname a raptor of the interior, but no breeding records exist.
Ornate Hawk-Eagle status Least Concern


Sedentary in all of its range.

Distribution map

Ornate Hawk-Eagle distribution range map

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