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Crane Hawk - BirdForum Opus

A bird from the eastern group
Photo © by Rogerio Araújo Dias
Serra da Mesa, Goias, Brazil
Geranospiza caerulescens


38–54 cm (15-21 in)

  • Grey underparts with fine white bars (see variation)
  • Grey above
  • Grey head
  • Black and white barred, white tipped tail
  • Long orange legs and feet
Photo © by lior kislev
Chino,Otawaio river, Loreto, Peru, February 2010
  • Black talons
  • Grey hooked bill
  • Eyes red or pale depending on location
  • In flight shows one white band across base of primaries (or two in immatures)
  • Immatures of all forms have paler underside with barring and pale streaking in head and neck; many have pale eyes


Adults from eastern South America have the barred underside, buffy to orange or rufous in the pale part of the tail, and pale eyes. Birds from Amazonian Brazil to Peru and Colombia have solid blue-grey underparts and red eyes with white tail bands. Birds from Central America to western Colombia are much darker with unbarred underside and red eyes; many have darker red legs than seen further east and south but in Mexico legs can be yellow (might indicate younger birds); in some regions they have orange-buffy bands on the dark tail, in other places the bands are white.


A bird from the northern group
Photo © by hawkwatch
Tlacotalpan, Veracruz, Mexico, March 2008

Central and South America: found from northern Mexico to northern Argentina and Brazil.

Accidental to the United States with one record at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Texas.



Showing the distinctive white crescent on the underwing
Photo © by Jacamar
Sisters, East Bank Berbice, Guyana, September 2006

There are 6 subspecies[1]:

  • G. c. livens:
  • G. c. nigra: Blackish Crane Hawk
  • Northern Mexico to central Panama
  • G. c. balzarensis:
  • G. c. caerulescens: Grey Crane Hawk
  • G. c. gracilis: Banded Crane Hawk
  • North-eastern Brazil (Maranhão, Ceará and Piauí to Bahia)
  • G. c. flexipes:

The subspecies are sometimes divided into three groups: the first three in a northern group, no 4 in Amazonian South America, and the remaining two in the eastern group. These three forms have historically been viewed as different species; some sources say they intergrade, others say that further studies may show them to be good species.


Very variable habitat choices from wetlands, rainforest, semi-dry woodland, mangroves and even savannah if there are nearby trees. It is restricted to lowlands and is often near water.



The diet includes bats, insects, frogs, spiders, lizards, and snakes.


Photo © by Stanley Jones
Pantanal, Mato Grosso, Brazil, August 2015

They have a fairly elaborate and noisy flight courtship display.

They nest during January in Panama, in Guatemala from late March to mid April. April to July in Mexico, July in north-eastern Colombia, and from July to October in Venezuala. Both adults build the nest at a height of about 10-15 m; they make a small shallow nest from sticks and vines and it is lined with grass and fresh leaves. They pick a new site each year. The clutch consists of 1 or 2 sepia spotted white eggs, which both adults incubate for around 39 days. It is usually the male that brings the food to the nest. The chicks fledge after 32-44 days with both adults tending them for about 21 days.

The young remain near the nest in the care of one of the adults for a further four months.


Call: they have a variety of calls, the most common of which is a repetitive keeuw or WHEEe-oo.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved June 2015)
  3. Wikipedia
  4. Arthur Grosset
  5. SACC baseline read April 2011
  6. Restall et al. 2006. Birds of Northern South America. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300124156
  7. Ber van Perlo. 2009. A field guide to the Birds of Brazil. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, USA. ISBN 978-0-19-530155-7
  8. Ridgely & Gwynne 1989. Birds of Panama. Princeton Paperbacks. ISBN 0691025126
  9. Erize et al. 2006 Birds of South America, non-passerines. Princeton Illustrated Checklists, Princeton, New Jersey, USA. ISBN 0-691-12688-7
  10. Howell & Webb, 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198540124

Recommended Citation

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