Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotatus)

Zone-tailed Hawk

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Buteo albonotatus | [authority] Kaup, 1847 | [UK] Zone-tailed Hawk | [FR] Buse a queue barree | [DE] Mohrenbussard | [ES] Busardo Aura | [NL] Bandstaartbuizerd


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Buteo albonotatus NA, LA sw USA to Paraguay


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

Entirely black plumage. Paler, barred, flight feathers. Yellow legs and cere. Long, broad, dark tail with white bands (adults have 3 or 4). Hooked beak. Wings held in a shallow V during flight. Immatures have scattered white spotting on its underparts and narrow greyish tail bands. Sexes similar. The females are slightly larger than the males. 46 to 53 cm in length. The Zone-tailed Hawk is believed to mimic the V-shaped wing pattern of the Turkey Vulture to take advantage of prey that is desensitized to the presence of vultures. Alternatively, the V-shaped wing pattern may simply help stabilize the bird during low flight over rough terrain. Swooping on prey from up to 105 meters above the ground, the Zone-tailed Hawk primarily feeds on small birds, small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.

Listen to the sound of Zone-tailed Hawk

[audio: Hawk.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 117 cm wingspan max.: 130 cm
size min.: 47 cm size max.: 56 cm
incubation min.: 33 days incubation max.: 37 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 37 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


North America, Latin America : Southwest USA to Paraguay


Riparian forest and woodland, desert uplands, and mixed conifer forests


The nest is made from sticks and built in a tall tree or cliff. Female zone-tailed hawks lay one or two eggs per clutch. In the southwestern United States, these hawks are known to breed only once, but not much is known about their breeding habits in South America except that year-round residents breed only once. Young are semi-altricial at hatching, with grey down. The female parent incubates for about 5 weeks while the male parent collects food for the female and young. Growth is gradual to slow during first 7 days; from days 7-21, growth is rapid. Cases of siblicide have been documented. Male and female hawks are very aggressive when guarding the nest. They are aggressively territorial when nestlings are present.

Feeding habits

The diet of the zone-tailed hawk includes many small vertebrates (birds, especially passerines; mammals, especially ground squirrels and chipmunks; amphibians and reptiles, particularly the common collared lizard and crevice spiny lizard; rarely fish). Prey that is exposed and becomes conditioned to the harmless presence of turkey vultures is likely prey of the zone-tailed hawk.

Video Zone-tailed 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 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 Zone-tailed Hawk is found from the southwestern United States to Central and South America. In Suriname very rare migant to the interior.
Zone-tailed Hawk status Least Concern


Northernmost birds mostly migratory but some individuals overwinter at North limit of range. In Panama, most birds migrants, but reports throughout year suggest a resident breeding population may have developed. Birds in South America have been claimed to be migrants from North, but species regularly breeds in Venezuela, and perhaps on Trinidad; status of birds further South requires confirmation.

Distribution map

Zone-tailed Hawk distribution range map

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