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White-tailed Hawk
Geranoaetus albicaudatus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: Buteo albicaudatus, Sennett's White-tailed Hawk (hypospodius), White-tailed Buzzard.

Geranoaetus albicaudatus
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Distribution: Nearctic/Neotropical. Southern UNITED STATES (Texas) south through MEXICO and Central America and east of the Andes south to ARGENTINA; NETHERLANDS ANTILLES and TRINIDAD. more....

Subspecies: 3 races. B. a. hypospodius: South-central UNITED STATES (South Texas) and northwestern MEXICO (Sonora) south through Central America (except El Salvador) to northern COLOMBIA and northwestern VENEZUELA; B. a. colonus: Eastern COLOMBIA east to SURINAM (except northwestern VENEZUELA and south to BRAZIL (Amazon), east from Manaus to Atlantic Coast; ARUBA, CURAÇAO, BONAIRE, and TRINIDAD; B. a. albicaudatus: Extreme southeastern PERU and southern BRAZIL through northern and eastern BOLIVIA, PARAGUAY, URUGUAY, and northern and central ARGENTINA.

Taxonomy: Voous (1968) and Voous and de Vries (1978) suggested that the White-tailed Hawk B. albicaudatus and B. galapagoensis were sister taxa, and Sibley and Monroe (1990) regarded them as a superspecies. Amadon (1964) thought that this species forms a superspecies with the Galapagos Hawk B. galapagoensis and possibly the Red-backed Hawk B. polyosoma and Puna Hawk B. poecilochrous, but this arrangement is not supported by the molecular data of Fleischer and McIntosh (2001) and Riesing et al. (2003). The DNA studies of Lerner et al. (2008) indicated that this species is in a clade with B. melanoleucus and B. polyosoma (including B. poecilochrous).

Movements: Partial migrant, with juveniles dispersing from breeding areas (Bildstein 2006). Local irruptive movements may occur in response to changing feeding opportunities. Blake (1977) referred to B.a. hypospodius as "migratory in part," but Brown and Amadon (1968) stated that the species is not migratory at the northern end of its range, but is farther south. Other authors, including Wetmore (1965) for Panama and Howell (1972) for Nicaragua did not think that the species was migratory in those countries. Olivo (2003) reported large southbound flocks of this species in eastern Bolivia, but there was the possibility of confusion with Swainson's Hawks, which pass through that area in large numbers, as pointed out by Amaral et al. (2009). Short (1970) and Chesser (1994) categorized it as a partial austral migrant.

Habitat and Habits: Found in lowlands in open savannas, flooded grasslands, ranches, agricultural lands, and arid tropical scrub. Soars high off the ground, sometimes in pairs, and often hovers before swooping on prey. May perch on low bushes, fenceposts, or even on the ground on exposed hilltops. In Guatemala, these birds perch on tree-cactus fences in the arid Motagua Valley (Land 1970). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mainly on small mammals (rats, opossums), birds (including poultry), lizards, snakes, and toads (Bufo marinus), and insects (ffrench 1991, Sick 1993). Often attends dry season grass fires to capture prey flushed or killed by flames (e.g., Stevenson and Meitzen 1946, Friedmann and Smith 1950, Howell 1957). This species stops in mid-air, instead of hovering, remaining still up to several minutes as if suspended by an invisible wire by flying into a strong wind with the wings outstretched and immobile, and this allow is to scrutinize the ground in search of prey (Sick 1993). more....

Breeding: The nest is a large platform of sticks, sometimes lined with leaves, placed in an isolated tree in savanna or field. Clutch size is 1-3 eggs (usually 2), which are white and unmarked, or with a few faint brown spots. more....

Conservation: Generally uncommon, or only locally common, throughout most of its range, probably because of its narrow preferences for savanna and grasslands. This species is expanding it range in some regions, e.g., Peru, where native forests are being converted to pastures and grasslands. Categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Important References: 
Bent, A.C. 1937. Life histories of North American birds of prey. Order
  Falconiformes (Part 1). U.S. National Museum Bulletin 167.
Bierregaard, R.O. 1994. White-tailed Hawk. P. 181 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.
Farquhar, C.C. 1988. Ecology and breeding behavior of the White-tailed
  Hawk. Pp. 306-315 in R.L. Glinski et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the
  Southwest Raptor Management Symposium & Workshop. National Wildlife
  Federation Science and Technical Series no. 11.
Farquhar, C.C. 1992. White-tailed Hawk Buteo albicaudatus. In (A. Poole,
  P. Stettenheim, and F. Gill (eds.), The Birds of North America no. 30. The
  Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and the American Ornithologists'
  Union, Washington, D.C.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world.
  Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Granzinolli, M.A.M., and J.C. Motta-Junior. 2007. Feeding ecology of the
  White-tailed Hawk (Buteo albicaudatus) in south-eastern Brazil.
  Emu 107:214-222.
Kopeny, M.T. 1988. White-tailed Hawk. Pp. 97-104 in R.L. Glinski, B.G.
  Pendleton, and M.B. Moss (eds.), Southwest Raptor Management Symposium
  and Workshop. National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C.
Stevenson, J.O., and L.H. Meitzen. 1946. Behavior and food habits of
  Sennett's White-tailed Hawk in Texas. Wilson Bulletin 58:198-205.
Voous, K.H. 1968. Taxonomy and geographical variation of the White-tailed
  Hawk (Buteo albicaudatus). Beaufortia 15:195-208.

Sites of Interest:
White-tailed Hawk photos.
Aves de Rapina do Brasil
Species account with emphasis on Brazil.

Clark, William S. (Bill)
Granzinolli, Marco
Iscold, Daniel
Lambertucci, Sergio
Morrison, Michael
Olivo Quiroga, Cristian E.
Ospina, Alex
Salvador Jr, Luiz
Zuluaga Castañeda, Santiago

Last modified: 9/3/2015

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: White-tailed Hawk Geranoaetus albicaudatus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 10 Apr. 2020

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