Comprehensive Guide to selected species of:
Birds of the Boreal Forest « back to Guide
Broad-winged Hawk Buteo platypterus
Family: Hawks and Eagles, Accipitridae
Audio: Martyn Stewart, © Naturesound.org
An estimated 25% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.
Description 13-15" (33-38 cm). W. 33" (84 cm). A stocky, pigeon-sized hawk. Adult plain brown above, barred with rusty color below, with broad black-and-white tail bands. Immatures similar, but sparsely spotted or blotched below, and with tail bands less distinct.
Habitat Breeds mainly in deciduous woodlands.
Nesting 3 or 4 white eggs, with irregular brown spots, in a nest of sticks lined with green leaves placed in the crotch of a tree.
Voice Thin whistle, pe-heeeeeeeee?
Range Breeds from Alberta east to Manitoba and Nova Scotia, south to Gulf Coast and Florida. Winters from southern Florida southward into tropics.
Discussion The Broad-winged Hawk is an eastern species, best known for its spectacular migrations; often thousands of birds travel together, with single flocks numbering up to several hundred individuals. Great numbers migrate along the eastern ridges in mid-September; more than 19,000 were counted in one day as they passed over the lookout at Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania. During breeding, this hawk is secretive or, rather, unobtrusive. It lives mainly in the woods, beneath the canopy or hidden among the foliage. Often one is made aware of it only through its call. Its food consists mainly of snakes, mice, frogs, and insects.
Migration Info This species, famous for the huge flocks that migrate southward each fall, moves back into the United States in spring along a broad front. The only significant concentrations of these birds during the spring are found along the southern shores of the Great Lakes in late April. The yearly migratory path of this species is a classical elliptical pattern. Spring migrants move northward up the Mississippi River valley, remaining west of the Appalachians. In fall, northern populations follow a southerly course down along the eastern side of the Appalachian crest.