June and July are fledging season for the White Hawk! During this time, the young birds have developed wing feathers large enough for flight, and they begin their first forays into the wild. Let us wish these beautiful birds luck as they set out on their new life in the forest!
The White Hawk is a striking bird, marked by its mostly white plumage and relatively large size. There are four subspecies each with slightly different markings, but they can all be recognized by their dramatic white and black coloring. As the species range from north to south they tend to darken, with the southern Mexican variety colored almost entirely white while the Amazonian species has more black on its mantle, upper wings and tail. When viewed from below, all the birds appear almost completely white.
Widely spread throughout the Neotropical forests, the White Hawk has a range from Southern Mexico to Brazil and throughout the entire Amazon Basin. Preferring to nest in lowland forests and forest peripheries, it can be found perching on branches at the forest edge or soaring overhead as it searches for prey. It builds its nests of sticks and leaves in the tops of tall trees, sometimes among orchids or bromeliads. Most nests hold only a single egg, and the young bird is fed by both the male and female hawks.
The White Hawk feeds mostly on snakes and lizards, but it will not turn down a tasty mammal, bird or large insect. It will hunt from just inside the forest canopy and at the edges of clearings, perching patiently until it sights its prey. In French Guiana, White Hawks have been observed regularly following troops of Brown Capuchin monkeys and then swooping down to capture tree snakes flushed out by the primates. Although these same groups of monkeys will respond with fear and agitation at the sight of other birds of prey, they do not seem afraid of the White Hawks. (Perhaps the monkeys are also fans of White Hawk IPA).
Loss of Habitat
Although the destruction of some forested areas has put the White Hawk at risk, its range is so large that it is not (yet) considered particularly vulnerable. However, it is on the endangered list in El Salvador and considered a Species Subject to Special Protection in Mexico, and its population has been decreasing over the years. According to one source, the White Hawk could lose as much as 25 percent of its habitat over the next 23 years due to Amazon deforestation!
In the Wild
A wild and forest-loving bird, the White Hawk does not lend itself to video capture in the same way as other birds. However, thanks to some intrepid travelers—and the wonders of tiny electronics—we can still observe a few of these birds in action. So settle back with a White Hawk IPA (or the Mendo brew of your choice) and check out this link for a video of a White Hawk in Brazil, taking a break from hunting while keeping an eye out for prey.
Do you have any favorite raptor photographs or videos to share? Let us know, and send a link in the comments below!