Common black-hawk

COMMON NAME: Common black-hawk

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Buteogallus anthracinus

A large, black hawk with one conspicuous broad white bar in the middle of the white-tipped tail. More robust-looking with shorter, broader wings than the zone-tailed hawk, the common black hawk is sooty black with a glaucous bloom. In worn plumage, the hawk sports a brownish tinge. The young are rufous and buff streaked and black barred. The eyes are brown and the cere, lores, and gape are bright yellow. The hawk’s legs are yellow and the bill is black, becoming yellow at the base. The most commonly heard call is a nasal, high-pitched, cry alarm.

The common black hawk is found in southern Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas south through Panama, as well as coastal areas in South America as far south as northwestern Peru and northwestern Guyana. It is also present on coastal islands and also throughout much of the Caribbean. It is migratory only in the extreme northern part of its range.

The common black hawk’s preferred habitat is coastal lowlands of mixed savannah, dunes, ponds, lagoons, and grasslands. It can also be seen along wooded streams and even in hilly deserts, such as in Arizona, sometimes up to 5,000 or 6,000 feet.

The nuptial display of the common black hawk consists of lazy circling at great heights. In the early part of the breeding season, the hawk will utter a three-syllable whistle while soaring. The bird places its nest in trees at heights of 15 to 100 feet. The base of the nest is made of large sticks, up to an inch in diameter, and mixed with smaller sticks, coarse stems, and trash. The birds line their nests with twigs green leaves and sprays. A normal clutch consists of one egg and the nest may be used for several years.


Common black hawks feed mostly on crabs, frogs, snakes, fish, insects, and rodents. When available, crabs are the hawk’s favorite food. The bird also eats large insects, such as grasshoppers and caterpillars and can sometimes be seen following grass fires.


Common in its range.