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Great Black Hawk
Buteogallus urubitinga

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: Brazilian Eagle (urubitinga), Brazilian Urubitinga (urubitinga), Great Black-hawk, Hypomorphnus urubitinga, Ridgway's Black Hawk (ridgwayi), Urubitinga zonura.

Buteogallus urubitinga
click to enlarge
Distribution: Neotropical. Northern MEXICO south through Central America and west of the Andes to northwestern PERU and east of the Andes to northern ARGENTINA and URUGUAY; TRINIDAD, TOBAGO. more....

Subspecies: 2 races. B. u. ridgwayi: Northern MEXICO (central Sonora, southern Tamaulipas) to western PANAMA; B. u. urubitinga: Eastern PANAMA west of the Andes south to ECUADOR and PERU, east of the Andes to the GUIANAS, and south through eastern BOLIVIA and BRAZIL to PARAGUAY, URUGUAY, and central ARGENTINA (Tucumán, Santiago del Estero, Santa Fé); TRINIDAD and TOBAGO.

Taxonomy: Formerly placed in the monotypic genera, Hypomorphnus (Peters 1931, Pinto 1938, Friedmann 1950, Phelps and Phelps 1958) or Urubitinga (Hellmayr and Conover 1949), primarily because of its relatively longer legs than those of Buteogallus anthracinus. Amadon (1949) questioned the taxonomic importance of this character and later (Amadon and Eckelberry 1955) merged this species with Buteogallus, a treatment followed by virtually all subsequent authors. More recently, the mitochondrial gene studies of Lerner and Mindell (2005) and Raposo do Amaral et al. (2006) showed a sister relationship between this species and Harpyhaliaetus coronatus, so perhaps the Great Black Hawk would be better placed in the latter genus. The data of Raposo do Amaral et al. (op cit.) also revealed the existence of a clade formed by this species and L. plumbeus, L. schistacea, L. lacernulatus, Buteogallus meridionalis, and Harpyhaliaetus coronatus. The molecular studies indicated that B. anthracinus and B. urubitinga are not sister species, as some authorities had previously thought.

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant (Bildstein 2006). Ortiz and Capllonch (2007) reported that this species is an altitudinal migrant in Argentina, moving from west to east during the non-breeding season.

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in lowlands to lower middle elevations, preferring forested areas more than B. anthracinus, but not found in the forest interior. Frequently associated with water, including lakes, large ponts, or marshes. Usually seen at forest edges and in semi-open areas, especially along rivers and streams, and even in savannas, pastures, and fields. In tropical areas, it is more often seen in humid mountainous areas than the Common Black Hawk (Brown and Amadon 1968). Occurs in old mangroves and palm swamps in French Guiana (Thiollay 2007). Soars regularly, sometimes ascending very high (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001), but is most often seen perched. In general, it is a rather sluggish, slow-moving hawk. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: A dietary generalist, feeding on a wide range of prey, including frogs, fishes, lizards, snakes, birds (including chickens and colonial waterbird nestlings that have fallen from nests), small mammals (including bats), crabs, large insects, carrion, and even fruits. Often hunts by perching and dropping on active prey, but may also fly from tree to tree inside forest, moving on if no prey is found, or even searches for prey by walking on the ground. Several observers have seen this species foraging on floating vegetation in shallow lakes or lagoons. It is also attracted to grass fires, where it searches for flushed prey. Beaumont (2005) reported an instance of cooperative hunting by this species in Brazil.more....

Breeding: The nest is a bulky, rather flat platform of sticks, usually lined with green, leafy twigs, and placed high in an emergent tree, or (in Argentina) on power poles. Clutch size is 1 egg, which is white with reddish- and purplish-brown spots. The incubation period at two Argentine nests was estimated at 35-37 days, and the nestling period was approximately 60 days (Di Giacomo 2005). At a Guatmalan nest, Seavy and Gerhardt (1998) estimated the nestling period at 40 days, and a closely monitored chick fledged at 55 days; two others were still in the nest after 60 days. At Guatemalan nests, males usually brought prey to a tree near the nest, where the females received and then delivered it to the check at the nest (Gerhardt et al. 1993). The period of dependency of immatures is evidently quite long, as Mader (1981) observed one with the parents full seven months after fledging, still begging for food. more....

Conservation: Fairly common to common in most portions of its range and generally more numerous than the "Common" Black Hawk, B. anthracinus. May suffer from habitat loss and shooting in some areas. Categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Important References: 
Bierregaard, R.O. 1994. Great Black Hawk. Pp. 173-174 in del Hoyo, J., A.
  Elliott, and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New
  World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Carvalho Filho, E.P.M., M. Canuto, and G. Zorzin. 2006. [Breeding biology
  and diet of the Great Black Hawk (Buteogallus u. urubitinga): Accipitridae)
  in southeastern Brazil]. Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia 14:445-448. (In
  Portuguese with English summary)
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Gerhardt, R.P., N.E. Seavy, and M.A. Vasquez M. 1993. Food habits of
  nesting Great Black Hawks in Tikal National Park, Guatemala. Biotropica
Gerhardt, R.P., N.E. Seavy, and R.A. Madrid. 2012. Great Black Hawk. Pp.
  139-151 in D.F. Whitacre (ed.), Neotropical birds of prey:
  biology and ecology of a forest raptor community. Cornell University Press,
  Ithaca, NY.
Lerner, H.R.L., M.C. Klaver, and D.P. Mindell. 2008. Molecular
  phylogenetics of the buteonine birds of prey (Accipitridae). Auk
Lerner, H.R., and D.P. Mindell. 2005. Phylogeny of eagles, Old World
  vultures, and other Accipitridae based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.
  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 37:327-346.
Raposo do Amaral, F.S., M.J. Miller, L.F. Silveira, E., Bermingham, and A.
2006. Polyphyly of the hawk genera Leucopternis and Buteogallus
  (Aves, Accipitridae): multiple habitat shifts during the Neotropical
  buteonine diversification. BMC Evolutionary Biology 6:1-10.
Seavy, N.E., and R.P. Gerhardt. 1998. Breeding biology and nestling diet
  of the Great Black-hawk. Journal of Raptor Research 32:175-177.

Sites of Interest:
Great Black Hawk photos.
Aves de Rapina do Brasil
Species account with emphasis on Brazil.

Beaumont, John
Canuto, Marcus
Carvalho Filho, Eduardo Pio Mendes
Gerhardt, Richard (Rick)
Shrum, Peggy
Zorzin, Giancarlo

Last modified: 7/27/2012

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2022. Species account: Great Black Hawk Buteogallus urubitinga. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 27 Jan. 2022

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