Savanna Hawk (Buteogallus meridionalis)

Savanna Hawk

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Buteogallus meridionalis | [authority] Latham, 1790 | [UK] Savanna Hawk | [FR] Buse roussatre | [DE] Savannenbussard | [ES] Busardo Sabanero | [NL] Savanne-buizerd


Monotypic species


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 is generally rufous brown in colour above and below with the wing quills tipped black. The rufous brown is lighter on the bend of the wing, the wing linings, the thighs, and the bases of the flight feathers. The tail is black with a white band and tip. All of the underside, with the exception of the throat, are narrowly barred with black. The bill is black, the cere yellow, the eyes a dull orange-yellow and the feet and legs pale yellow or orange. There is a white area at each side of the base of the bill, and the crown is streaked with a dusky colour. This hawk has long legs and long broad wings. Both sexes are similar. The length is 46 -61 cm.
Immature have upper parts mostly deep brown, with some rufous mottling on the shoulder, and the tail is black with a mottled greyish area at its centre. Beneath, the immature are buffy white with black areas on the sides of the chest and flanks and scattered blackish streaks elsewhere.

Listen to the sound of Savanna Hawk

[audio: Hawk.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: cm wingspan max.: cm
size min.: 51 cm size max.: 64 cm
incubation min.: 37 days incubation max.: 43 days
fledging min.: 40 days fledging max.: 43 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 2  


Latin America : Panama to North Argentina


Found primarily in low vegetation (grass shrubs), open country, forest edges and mangrove forest. Found up to 1200 meters.


Long breeding season from february in Venezuela to november in Argentina. The nest is built of twigs in the branches of an often isolated tree. Clutch size is usuaaly one, but two also possible. One brood. The incubation period is about 39 days. The young fledge after 45-50 days but remain dependent up to 4-7 months after fledging. Known for their low level of nesting success, renesting does occur but also not very successfull. The long caretaking period after fledging compensates for the low nesting success in this species.

Feeding habits

It is often seen perching with an upright stance on a fence post, low stub, branch of a tree, or even on the ground. From its perch it plunges down to the ground to catch its prey. The Savannah Hawk is an opportunistic feeder, preferring snakes, fish, lizards and frogs. It also eats small mammals, insects, beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, ants and spiders and occasionally birds. It is attracted to grass fires to capture prey escaping from the fire.

Video Savanna Hawk


copyright: J. 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). The population trend appears to be increasing, 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.
South American range is from Panama to northern Argentina. In Suriname a common breeder in the Savannah and other open areas.
Savanna Hawk status Least Concern


Resident over most of range, with high degree of territory fidelity. Apparently migratory in South, with very large number of individuals (Southern population) reported in Colombia during austral winter. Most common along Paraguay River in June, when probably attracted by more abundant prey associated with high water levels. Transition between migratory and resident populations in South undocumented.

Distribution map

Savanna Hawk distribution range map


Abstract: The ecology of the Savanna Hawk (Buteogallus merid..[more]..
Source: Condor 84261-271

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