Great Black Hawks

Great Black Hawks (Buteogallus orbiting)

The Great Black Hawks, Buteogallus orbiting, is a bird of prey in the family Accipitridae, which also includes the eagles, hawks, and Old World vultures.

Great Black Hawks Perched in a Tree Top
Great Black Hawks Perched in a Tree Top

Distribution / Range

The Great Black Hawk is a resident breeding bird in the tropical New World, from Mexico through Central America to Peru, Trinidad, and northern Argentina.

This is a mainly coastal bird of forest and open woodland near water.

Nesting / Breeding

It builds a large stick nest in a tree and usually lays one dark-blotched whitish egg.


The adult Great Black Hawk is 56 to 64 centimeters long and weighs 1.1 kilograms. It has very broad wings and is mainly black. The short tail is white with a broad black tip. The bill is black and the legs and cere are yellow.

Males and females look alike, but immature birds are dark brown above with spotting and streaks. Their underparts are buff with dark spots, and the tail has several black and dusky bars.

It resembles the Common Black Hawk but is larger with a different call and tail pattern.

Calls / Vocalizations

The call of Great Black Hawk is a distinctive piping ooo-wheeeeee.

A Great Black Hawk is on Flight
A Great Black Hawk is on Flight

Diet / Feeding

The Great Black Hawk feeds mainly on reptiles, other small vertebrates, and large insects, often hunted on foot. This species is often seen soaring above woodlands.


  • BirdLife International (2004). Buteogallus urubitinga. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 10 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  • ffrench, Richard (1991). A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2nd edition ed.). Comstock Publishing. ISBN 0-8014-9792-2.
  • Hilty, Steven L (2003). Birds of Venezuela. London: Christopher Helm. ISBN 0-7136-6418-5.

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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