How The Peregrine Fund is Helping
The Peregrine Fund spent nine years from 1988 to 1996 studying Neotropical birds of prey in the Peten region of Guatemala in an ambitious undertaking called the Maya Project. At that time, biologists located and studied several Bicolored Hawk nests. This information helped contribute to the scientific world's knowledge of this species. This is important because the more we know about a species, the better we are able to help conserve it. The Peregrine Fund published the results of the Maya Project in a book called "Neotropical Birds of Prey, Biology and Ecology of a Forest Raptor Community."
Where They Live
Like the Harpy Eagle or the Ornate Hawk-eagle, the Bicolored Hawk is a Neotropical species. This means it is found from southern Mexico, through Central America all the way south to Northern Argentina.
The Bicolored Hawk can be found in a number of different habitat types throughout its range. It makes its home along forest edges or stands of trees in savannas. It can be seen hunting in open deciduous woodland and dense gallery forest. It might spend its time perched near plantations, woodland villages and, of course, in tropical rainforest.
However, despite its tendency to occupy many different habitats, it generally avoids high altitudes. It might hang out in lower understory or way up in the canopy of both dry and wet mature forests, but almost always in lowlands and middle elevations.
What They Do
What would you imagine a "bi-colored" bird to look like. Since one definition of "bi" is "two, or having two" you probably would guess that a bird with that name is just two colors! In the case of the Bicolored Hawk this is mostly true as two main colors do clearly stand out! However, it actually boasts a number of subtle shades as well as some bright hues. This hawk was given its name likely due to the striking contrast between its pure white belly and breast and its dark gray back and head. When seen from afar, it looks exactly as if it were divided in half by color! But if you were to look more closely, you might notice its piercing amber-colored eyes, and its bright yellow legs. It also has rust-colored thighs - but these are more difficult to see.
The Bicolored hawk is considered to be "elusive" which means it is often difficult to find. This is because this hawk doesn't soar very often, but rather prefers to sit quietly inside the forest or along clearings. When it does vocalize, mostly during breeding season, its call consists of around 10 or more nasally notes belted out in succession.
Whey They Need our Help
The Bicolored Hawk is classified as Least Concern. This means that scientists believe its populations are strong and will remain so into the foreseeable future. However, because this hawk can be hard to detect it can be difficult to know exactly how the species if faring. Habitat loss and degradation could be a threat to this species in the long term.
What They Eat
If you were a bird about the size of a thrush or a pigeon, you would need to be very careful while spending time in Bicolored Hawk territory. Birds make up an important part of this raptor's diet. It will, however, enjoy a meal of small mammals, such as bats, or lizards when the opportunity arises.
Like the Double-toothed Kite, researchers suspect that the Bicolored hawk might follow troops of monkeys that inadvertently help it catch its dinner. How might this happen? As monkeys travel through the trees, they flush up insects, birds and other critters. If the Bicolored Hawk is positioned just right, it can take advantage of this - catching prey flushed by the monkeys.
This raptor also does a lot of its hunting from a concealed perch - meaning it lies in wait, mostly out of view of its prey. When it eyes its potential dinner, it dashes out to grab it, often taking it by surprise. Another technique it uses is flying from perch to perch in the canopy, flushing prey and pursuing it, or flying into a tree full of perched birds and dashing after its meal of choice.
Nests, Eggs, and Young
Typically a forest nester, the Bicolored Hawk builds a small, cup-shaped platform of sticks high up in a tree, in hanging vines or even in a large epiphyte. It often lines its nest with softer material such as leaves or mosses.
When the time is right, the female will lay between 1 and 3 eggs which often are bluish-white in color. After the eggs are laid, the female will spend most of her time over the following 34 days incubating her eggs and her defending her nest against predators. But don't worry - she isn't in this alone. The male performs a very important job, too. He is in charge of making sure he and his family get enough to eat. He will spend his days seeking out and catching prey, which he will take back to the nest.
When the the nestlings hatch, they are very small and covered with a light fluff of pinkish down. But they will grow quickly over the following 30-35 days or so. At that time, the male must work extra hard because he will have several hungry mouths to feed. The young will fledge, or fly for the first time, when they are a little over a month old. Generally speaking, young males will fledge before their female siblings.
The young hawks will stay in their parents' territory for the next seven weeks or so as they learn to hunt, avoid danger and simply just survive on their own.
Bicolored Hawk and The World Center for Birds of Prey
The World Center for Birds of Prey offers fun ways to learn about raptors. The visitor center has 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 a number of avian ambassadors on hand which gives you a chance to see some birds of prey up close. Though we do not have a Bicolored Hawk at our center, we have two other neotropical species - the Harpy Eagle and the Ornate Hawk-eagle, for you to see. Knowledgeable staff and volunteers are on hand to answer any questions you may have about Bicolored Hawks or any other bird of prey.
Bierregaard, R.O., Jr, Kirwan, G.M., Boesman, P. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Bicolored Hawk (Accipiter bicolor). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/53085 on 4 April 2020).
BirdLife International 2016. Accipiter bicolor. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22695669A93521873. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22695669A93521873.en. Downloaded on 04 April 2020.
Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: Bicolored Hawk Accipiter bicolor. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 31 Mar. 2020
Thorstrom, R.; Quixchan, A. (2000). "Breeding biology and nest site characteristics of the Bicoloured Hawk in Guatemala". Wilson Bulletin. 112 (2): 195–202.
Thorstrom, R.; Kiff, L. F. (1999). "Notes on Eggs of the Bicolored Hawk Accipiter bicolor" (PDF). Journal of Raptor Research. 33 (3): 244–247.