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Zone-tailed Hawk

The Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotatus) is a medium-sized hawk found in warm, dry parts of the Americas. It feeds on small vertebrates of all kinds, including birds up to the size of quail.

Grown birds are 18.5″“21.5 inches (47″“55 cm) in length with a wingspan of about 4 feet (1.2 m). Their average weight is 1.8 pounds (810 g). Adult plumage is mostly blackish except that the flight feathers are barred with lighter gray (appearing solid gray from a distance) and the tail has three or four bands or “zones”, white from below and light gray from above, of which the one second from the tip is particularly broad and prominent. The cere and legs are yellow. Juveniles are similar except for small white spots on the breast and tails with narrow gray and black bands and a broad dark tip.

The bird’s plumage closely resembles that of the Turkey Vulture, whom they often can be found keeping company with. As Turkey Vultures seldom prey on healthy animals, some ornithologists believe that this mimicry tricks potential prey animals into not being alarmed when a zone-tail flies overhead.

The call is a loud scream dropping in pitch at the end. In at least some birds, there is an abrupt rise in pitch (like a break to a falsetto voice) in the middle and an equally abrupt drop back down.

Zone-tailed Hawks range from parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and western Texas to southern Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, and northern Argentina. In winter they generally migrate outside the U.S. part of their range. They sometimes wander out of their normal range, and the bird was once recorded in Nova Scotia. Their habitat is canyons with open woods in arid or semi-arid regions, though birds may hunt outside of canyons.

The nest is typical of hawks: a big assemblage of sticks built in the leafy top of a tree (usually tall) or on a cliff. The clutch comprises two or three white eggs, often marked with brown.

Zone-tailed Hawk


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