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Scientific Name:

Rupornis magnirostris

Population Status:

Least Concern

Body Length:

12–16 in (31–41 cm)

Wingspan:

31 in (78 cm)

Weight:

8.8–10.6 oz (250–300 g)

Conservation Projects


What makes a raptor a raptor?

Research Resources

Did you know?

  • There are twelve sub-species of Roadside Hawks
  • The Roadside Hawk tends to avoid dense forest habitat.
  • The Roadside Hawk is one of the most commonly seen raptors throughout its range.
  • Researches reported one observation of nestling siblicide in Roadside Hawks - meaning one nestling intentionally kills one or more of its brothers or sisters while they are all still young and in the nest.

Though The Peregrine Fund doesn't work directly with Roadside Hawks, our efforts in scientific research, habitat conservation, education, and community development help conserve raptors on a global scale. We also supply literature to researchers from our avian research library, which helps scientists around the world gather and share important information on raptor conservation.

The Roadside Hawk is found throughout much of the Americas from Mexico all the way to South America. It is considered "accidental" in the United States, specifically in Texas, where it has been recorded less than a dozen times in the past 100 years.

When you first hear the name "Roadside Hawk" you might guess that this raptor likes to hang around the sides of roads. And you would be correct. This hawk is often seen perched in trees, or on fence posts or power lines along highways, trails and paths. Just as it has a varied diet, it also spends time in a wide variety of habitats including forest edges, plantations (such as pine, coffee and eucalyptus), woodland, scrubland, savannas, pine-oak forest, river edges, mangrove edges, and thorn forest. It can even be found living comfortably near humans - in suburbs and city parks.

The Roadside Hawk is a lovely little raptor. Though there is plumage variation among the many subspecies of Roadside Hawks, in general, it has a grey or brown head and a brown back and wings, which have a bit of rufous in them, which is mainly visible when the bird is flying. Its white breast is lined with rufous-brown bars. It has yellow legs, a yellow cere and a grey beak. Its long tail is barred.

The Roadside Hawk is diurnal - meaning it hunts, soars, and is generally all around active during daylight hours. Similar to the Ridgway's Hawk, the Roadside Hawk is not a shy or wary bird and often doesn't fly away when approached by people. In fact, some researchers called the Roadside Hawk "tame to the point of stupidity." However, that can change during nesting season - as the Roadside Hawk is very protective of its nest and young and will work hard to chase out any potential threat - including humans.

It is also a very vocal species, emitting a distinctive, sharp call when perched and when in flight.

Like many raptors, the Roadside Hawk is a top predator – which means it hunts other animals for food but no animals hunt it on a regular basis. For most top predators, their only threat is humans. Top predators, such as the Roadside Hawk, play an important role in nature by helping to control populations of prey animals and maintain a balance in the ecosystems where they live.

Because the Roadside Hawk has a large population over a very extensive range, it is considered to be a species of "Least Concern," which means scientists aren't worried that there will be declines in its population anytime soon. In fact, the Roadside Hawk's population is increasing. While this is good news for the hawk, the reason is actually quite sad. Because the Roadside Hawk prefers edge habitat and clearings, its numbers are increasing as more forests are getting cut.

The Roadside Hawk is a very adept hunter - feeding on a long list of prey from large insects (such as grasshoppers, dragonflies, cicadas and beetles) to birds such as honeycreepers, doves and orioles. It is even known to take baby birds from nests. It also feeds on small mammals such as mice, squirrels and bats at roost. But the list doesn't stop there. It will dine on frogs, salamanders, snakes, lizards, spiders, and scorpions, too.

As you may imagine, one must have a lot of skill to be able to catch such varied prey. And, in fact, the Roadside Hawk uses a variety of hunting techniques. One tried and true method is to sit on a low perch and wait until it spots its prey. When a potential meal is in sight, the hawk will drop with closed wings to snag its quarry on the ground. Another successful hunting technique is - simply put - walking! The Roadside Hawk has been known to stroll along the ground looking for prey. It also capture birds in aerial pursuits.

But its skills don't stop there. The Roadside Hawk has quite a few more tricks up its sleeve when it comes to hunting.This species sometimes follows army ant swarms to capture the insects and small vertebrates flushed by the ants. It is also known to show up at brush and grass fires. It then hunts the distracted animals as they try to escape the fire. One scientist actually reported finding some Roadside Hawks that were unable to fly because their wings and tail feathers were so badly burned , which apparently occurred while hunting in the middle of a fire. The Roadside Hawk has also been known to kill already injured animals that have been hit by cars. One researcher even observed a Roadside Hawk predating on the nest of a small bird, the Lance-tailed Manakin!

The Roadside Hawks builds a small platform nest made of sticks, usually in the crotch of a tree growing along a forest edge or in second-growth forest. Once the nest structure as been built to its satisfaction, the Roadside Hawk will then line its nest with soft materials such as thin strips of bark, lichens or leaves. Even after the female begins incubation, and after the chicks have hatched, the adults will continue to bring fresh leafy materials to the nest.

Scientists believe that the Roadside Hawk most often builds a new nest every year, rather than re-using its old nest.

When the time is right, the female will lay between 1-3 eggs, which will need to be incubated for roughly 37 days. Once the nestlings hatch, they will remain in the nest for about 35 days before flying for the first time.

The World Center for Birds of Prey offers fun ways to learn about birds of prey. The visitor center offers interactive displays, tours, interesting videos and a children's room with activities from coloring sheets to quizzes to costumes and a touch table for the curious mind. We also have several different birds of prey on display year-around. Knowledgeable staff and volunteers are on hand to answer any questions you may have about Roadside Hawks or any other birds of prey.


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