Wild Profile: meet the broad-winged hawk

A-broad-winged-hawk-perches-on-a-fence-post By Gualberto Becerra/Shutterstock

By mid-September, there’s a mass exodus out of cottage country—in the form of broad-winged hawks headed for warmth in Central and South America. The stocky, mottled reddish-brown raptors prepare for the trip by scarfing mice, insects, and amphibians. They need to bulk up before leaving. While they have keen eyesight for spotting prey from the sky—they can seen eight times the detail that a person can—they’ll eat almost nothing during their six week journey.

Broad-wings can travel as fast as 67 km/h, but they’d rather conserve energy and ride thermals—columns of warm air. The birds rise up as high as 2,500 metres on one thermal, then glide as far as six km before catching another thermal.   

Look up: flocks or “kettles” of broad-wings can contain thousands of swirling, circling birds. From below, flying adults are recognizable by their white underwings with black tips, and their black and white tail bands. Females are as much as three times larger than males.

For a bird of prey, this hawk has a puny cry: a thin, high-pitched whistle (“puh-eeeee”) that lasts for two to four seconds.

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