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Short-tailed Hawk - BirdForum Opus

Light phase immature in flight
Photo by bobsofpa
Lucky Hammock, Florida City, Florida, USA, April 2012.
Buteo brachyurus


40cm. Sexes similar. Broad rounded wings.

The adult light morph has dark brown upperparts, white underparts, tail and flight feathers grey barred with dark. The immature is similar to the adult but the face is streaked rather than white, and the tail bands are of equal width, whereas the adult has a broad bar near the tail tip.

Dark phase
Photo by Dave B Smith
Cuidad del Carmen, Mexico.

The adult dark morph has black-brown upperparts and underparts, apart from the tail and flight feathers, which are grey barred with dark as in the light morph but with darker grey. The young bird has the same tail pattern as the light-morph immature, and the underparts are spotted with white.


Southeastern Brazil and northern Argentina north through Central America to northern Mexico and Florida. The species has additionally been documented as a breeder in SE Arizona but still rare.


Two subspecies are recognized,

  • B.b. brachyurus
  • B.b. fuligunosus.


Dark phase immature in flight
Photo by tetoneon
Naples, Florida, USA, Jan 2014.

Woodland, often near water.


The large stick nest is built in a tree, and 1-3 white eggs with dark spots and blotches are laid. Usually the nest is in the top of a live tree and is open to the environment from above.


The diet includes other birds (large majority), some rodents, frogs, lizards and large insects.


  1. Clements, James F. 2007. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to October 2007. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 9780801445019
  2. Paper describing nesting of this species in Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico

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