Family: Accipitridae, Hawks and Eagles view all from this family
Description ADULT Light morph has a rufous back, pale head streaked gray on nape and cheeks, and pale underparts with rufous streaks on flanks and "pants." In flight, from below looks pale with rufous on wing coverts and flanks; from above note rufous back and inner wing coverts and pale tail flushed rufous toward tip. Dark morph is dark brown with rufous on upper inner wing coverts, breast, and vent, and pale gray tail. In flight, from below the dark body and wing coverts contrast with pale wings and tail (wings have gray trailing edge and tips); from above, pale tail and primary bases contrast with otherwise dark plumage. JUVENILE Light morph is similar to adult, but rufous elements of plumage are gray-brown; looks very pale from below in flight. Dark morph is similar to adult, but pale carpal crescent on underwing is more striking.
Dimensions Length: 22 1/2 -25" (57-64 cm); Wngspn: 4' 8" (1.4 m)
Habitat Widespread, but scarce. Favors arid, open country including farmland. Range contracts southward in winter.
Observation Tips Perched birds often give prolonged views.
Range Southwest, Western Canada, California, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Northwest, Great Lakes, Texas
Voice Utters a harsh whistling call at nest, but otherwise silent.
Similar Species White-tailed Hawk B. albicaudatus (W 51-52 in) is confined to grassland in southern Texas and so range does not overlap. Adult has gray head and back, rufous "shoulders" (inner wing coverts), dark wings, and white underparts; tail is white with a broad, black subterminal band. Juvenile is mainly dark, with white breast and vent; tail is buffy gray with a pale base. Acquires adult plumage over 3-year period.
Discussion The largest western Buteo; has a powerful bill and feathered legs. In flight, note long, broad-based, but rather pointed wings. Plumage is variable, but, in flight, all birds show white base to upperside of primaries and pale tail. Perches on posts and employs active, low flights when hunting small mammals and birds. Sexes are similar.