Crane Hawk

Geranospiza caerulescens
Population status:
Least Concern
Body length:
38–54 cm (15-21 in)
76–111 cm (30-43.7 in)
225–519 g (8-18 oz)
Perched Crane Hawk

Angel Muela

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Did You Know?

  • The Crane Hawk is also known as the Black Frog Hawk and the Wood Hawk.
  • Crane Hawks are double-jointed! They can bend their legs both backward and forward at the tarsal joint. This is a special adaptation that allows them to reach into cavities and bromeliad clumps to grab and pull out prey. 
  • For several months between 1987 and 1988 an individual Crane Hawk was observed at the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in southern Texas, USA. This area is outside of the Crane Hawk's normal distribution.

Other Hawks

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. This information helped contribute to the scientific world's knowledge of these species, including the Black-and-white Hawk-eagle. 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." We also support the Neotropical Raptor Network, a group created to improve communication among raptor conservationists throughout the Americas. 

Where They Live

The Crane Hawk is a neotropical species. It is found from from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. Throughout its range, it makes its home in tropical lowlands, gallery forest, wooded swamps, mangroves, and savannas. It is often found in areas relatively near to water. Researchers have sometimes observed this beautiful bird hanging around fires, where it hunts small animals fleeing from the smoke and flames. 

What They Do

You may be wondering why this bird is called a Crane Hawk. Perhaps its relatively long legs reminded the person that named of another long-legged bird, the crane.  Or perhaps its ability to bend its leg both backwards and forwards to grab prey reminded someone of the mechanical cranes used to lift heavy objects. Or perhaps it was for another reason entirely! 

There are three known subspecies of Crane Hawk, each with its own slight variation in coloration. In general, adult Crane Hawks are very distinctive. Their overall plumage does vary from slate gray to black. They have a long black tail with white bars, long orangish-red legs and dark red eyes.

If you find yourself in Crane Hawk territory, be sure to check out any exposed perches along forest edges, where this hawk likes to perch. But, don't forget to look up. It often soars on wide wings, circling at higher altitudes over forest. This bird is usually seen on its own and isn't very nervous around people. 

Why They Need our Help

 The Crane Hawk is categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. Though it isn't particularly common in any one area, it does have a wide distribution. Though there is still more to learn, this hawk does seem to be somewhat adaptable to some changes in its habitat. 

What They Eat

The Crane Hawk has a long list of animals on its menu. Rodents, bats, lizards, snakes, small birds, nestling birds, large insects, and snails.

The Crane Hawk catches its prey by dropping to the ground from a nearby perch. It also runs or walks along branches, looking into holes and bromeliads and other vegetation in search of hiding animals. When they find one, they reach for it with their long and flexible legs and toes. They have been seen hanging from a branch, balancing themselves by flapping their wings and spreading their tail. Researchers have observed some running along the ground in more open areas, in pursuit of prey. In open areas, they soar low, keeping their eye out of food, reminiscent of a harrier.  

Nests, Eggs, and Young

Crane Hawks build their nests high up in trees, either directly on a network of branches or in clumps of epiphytes. Using twigs and sticks, they will build a cup-shaped nest that they line with green leaves. 

The female will lay between 1-2 eggs, which are a dull white or bluish in color. The eggs will be incubated for roughly 39 days. While both the female and male will take turns incubating the eggs, the bulk of this task is done by the female. In the meantime, the male will go on the hunt to find enough prey to feed himself and the female.  

When the nestlings hatch, they are covered in cream-colored down. Even at this young age, their distinctively colored legs are obvious. In the case of the young hawks, their legs are pink. Over the next month or longer, the nestlings will begin to develop. They will grow in size and their dark contour feathers will grow in. After the young hawks fly for the first time, when they are around 32–44 days old, they will remain with their parents for several more months as they learn to survive on their own. 

Crane Hawk and the World Center for Birds of Prey

The World Center for Birds of Prey offers fun ways to learn about raptors. Interactive activities, tours, interesting videos and a children's room with activities from coloring sheets and quizzes to costumes and a touch table are available for the curious mind. We also have several different birds of prey on display year-round, including several hawk species! Though we don't have any resident Crane Hawks at the World Center for Birds of Prey, if you visit you will be rewarded with an opportunity to meet Fancy, our resident Ornate Hawk-eagle, a species that has a similar range and habitat of the Crane Hawk.  At the visitor center, you will see this amazingly colorful bird of prey up close in our outdoor aviary. Come learn about this unique species and all its rainforest neighbors.


Bierregaard, R. O., P. F. D. Boesman, J. S. Marks, and G. M. Kirwan (2020). Crane Hawk (Geranospiza caerulescens), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Crane Hawk Geranospiza caerulescens. Downloaded from on 13 Aug. 2021