Short-tailed Hawk

Credit: Alejobayer

Short-tailed hawks are fairly numerous in their range but because they are mostly in flight high up in the sky and are often concealed when they’re perched, they are hard to detect and are regularly overlooked.

Short-tailed Hawks are small hawks that can either be light or dark in color. Dark morphs have very dark brown or close-to-black feathers, but their flight feathers are barred white underneath creating a checkered pattern. Their tails also have narrow white bands visible in flight.

Light morphs are white below and brown on the back. Looking closer, they have some brown markings on the sides of their breast. As the name would suggest, they have short tails compared to other hawks.

Juvenile Dark Morphs are dark brown with heavy white spotting or streaking. Juvenile Light Morphs are buffy white below and regularly show buffy streaking on the cheeks.

  • Buteo brachyurus
  • Length: 15.3 – 17.3 in (39 – 44 cm)
  • Weight: 13.6 – 16.9 oz (385 – 480 g)
  • Wingspan: 32.7 – 40.5 in (83 – 103 cm)


They live in Mexico, Central and South America, and Florida. Short-tailed Hawks can be hard to spot as they hunt small birds from high up in the sky.

Habitat And Diet

You can find Short-Tailed Hawks in dense, large, and remote forests. Nesting sites include wet forests with wetland trees but some choose open and dry woodlands. When hunting, they fly around forest edges, pastures, prairies, plantations, well-treed towns, and mangrove forests.

Short-tailed Hawks primarily hunt small birds but they will also settle for frogs, lizards, snakes, and other small mammals. They hunt from as high as 800 feet in the air and then dive into birds perched in trees or snatch them off the ground.

Short-tailed Hawk Call:


Nests of Short-tailed Hawks are initially constructed by both adults until the female finally makes the selection and starts laying her eggs. They build a platform of sticks, moss, and leafy plants that are set near the tops of tall trees.

The female lays only two eggs which both adults take turns incubating for a period of thirty-four to thirty-nine days. She protects the nestlings while he protects them from passing predators. They both tend to their young.

Fun Fact:

During courtship, Sholrt-tailed Hawk males present prey and sticks to females as a signal that their next step is nest-building although females do the actual construction.