Spizaetus: Hawk Eagles

Spizaetus or Hawk Eagles are the typical hawk-eagles birds of prey genus found in the tropics of the Americas. It was however used to indicate a group of medium-large tropical eagles that included species occurring in southern and southeastern Asia and one representative of this genus in the rainforests of West Africa.

Black Hawk Eagle Perched on Tree Hawk Eagles
Black Hawk Eagle Perched on Tree Hawk Eagles

The Old World species have been separated into the genus Nisaetus. Several species have a prominent head crest.

The American Ornithologists’ Union merges Spizastur into Spizaetus since 2007.

Spizaetus eagles are forest birds with several species having a preference for highland woodlands. They build stick nests in trees


Males and females look alike plumaged with typical raptor brown upperparts and pale underparts, but young birds are distinguishable from adults, often by a whiter head.

Diet / Feeding

These eagles eat medium-sized vertebrate prey such as mammals, birds and reptiles.

The species that were historically placed in this genus are:

New World species retained in Spizaetus

Old World species now moved to Nisaetus

Sulawesi Hawk-eagles in the Cage
Sulawesi Hawk-eagles in the Cage


  1. Helbig AJ, Kocum A, Seibold I and Braun MJ (2005) A multi-gene phylogeny of aquiline eagles (Aves: Accipitriformes) reveals extensive paraphyly at the genus level. Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 35(1):147-164 PDF
  2. Banks et al. (2007)
  3. Gjershaug, J. O.; Diserud, O. H.; Rasmussen, P. C. and Warakagoda, D. (2008) “An overlooked threatened species of eagle: Legge’s Hawk Eagle Nisaetus kelaarti (Aves: Accipitriformes)” (PDF) Zootaxa 1792: 54–66

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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