White Hawk (Leucopternis albicollis)

White Hawk

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Leucopternis albicollis | [authority] Latham, 1790 | [UK] White Hawk | [FR] Buse blanche | [DE] Schneebussard | [ES] Busardo Blanco | [NL] Grote Bonte Buizerd


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Leucopternis are small to medium-sized buteonine hawks with short and rounded wings and a moderate length tail. In some species the sides of the head are partly bare of feathers and brightly coloured, as are the legs. P1umage pattern is quite simple; immatures are similar to adults. This large genus is placed between Buteo and Buteogallus, and contains ten species, all tropical American.

Physical charateristics

Leucopternis albicollis ghiesbreghti of southern Mexico to Nicaragua is entirely white, except for black markings on the outer primaries, and a black sub terminal tail bar. The eyes are yellow and the beak blackish horn. The cere is deep grey and the feet yellow. Leucopternis albicollis costaricensis is found in Honduras through to Panama and Colombia. It is similar to Leucopternis albicollis ghiesbreghti but the black markings on wings and the black tail band are more conspicuous. The eyes are brown.
Leucopternis albicollis williaminae ranges locally in north-western Colombia and western Venezuela. Its wing feathers are more heavily marked with black, and it has black streaks on the crown and collar. The tail band is broader. The eyes are brown.

  • Leucopternis albicollis albicollis. This is the most widely distributed race – from central Venezuela, Guyana and Trinidad, south to southern Amazonia and Mato Grosso. The wing quills are mostly black with white markings; the black tail band extends to the base of the tail, leaving a broad, white tip. The eyes are brown.
  • Listen to the sound of White Hawk

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

    Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

    wingspan min.: cm wingspan max.: cm
    size min.: 46 cm size max.: 56 cm
    incubation min.: 34 days incubation max.: 38 days
    fledging min.: 65 days fledging max.: 38 days
    broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
          eggs max.: 1  


    Latin America : South Mexico through Amazonia


    It prefers well-watered tropical regions where the dry season is not too long, but it avoids deep, unbroken rain forest, except around swampy areas where the forest is more thinned out.


    White hawks in Guatemala begin courtship displays and nest building in February, and by mid-to-late March egg laying and incubation begins. Several different species of trees are utilized as nest sites. Only one pair reoccupied a nest tree from a previous breeding season. The nest height averages 22 m above the ground. External nest measurements average 41 x 62 cm across and 29 cm deep. Clutch size is one egg. The average incubation period is 35 days (range 34 – 38 days). Three nestlings fledged at 65, 66, and 88 days of age. Immature birds were found at two nests near the end of the 1991 field season. All young fledged during June and July. The home ranges for two breeding males were 248 ha and 290 ha.

    Feeding habits

    The White Hawk feeds mostly on tree snakes and lizards (70%) up to 38 cm long. Sometimes the White Hawk may catch a young or weak bird (7%). It also takes large insects or amphibians (13%).

    Video White Hawk


    copyright: D. Ascanio


    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 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.
    The White Hawk is found in tropical and sub tropical zones in well-watered regions from southern Mexico as far south as the southern borders of Amazonia. Its preferred habitat is mixed forest, edges, and clearings. In Surinam common in the interior forests but not in the coastal plains.
    White Hawk status Least Concern


    Sedentary in all of its range.

    Distribution map

    White Hawk distribution range map

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