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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Common Black-Hawk -- Buteogallus anthracinus
(formerly Black Hawk)

RANGE: Resident in central Arizona, southwestern Utah, southern New Mexico, and western Texas, south through Central America to Colombia (northernmost populations move southward during winter).

STATUS: Rare; threatened in Arizona and New Mexico.

HABITAT: An obligate of riparian areas. Optimum habitat consists of a flowing stream bordered by mature riparian forests. Also inhabits broad alluvial valleys, narrow rocky canyons, or marshes near the coast.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Mature, relatively undisturbed habitat with a permanent water source and tall (75 to 100 feet) trees for nesting.

NEST: Nests in trees from 15 to 100 feet above ground, preferably within a grove of trees rather than in a lone tree. Builds nests in cottonwood, sycamore, alder, mesquite, willow, velvet ash, ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir. May use same nest for successive years.

FOOD: Prefers to fish in streams of low to moderate gradient, less than one foot deep with scattered boulders and some low or fallen branches. Usually locates prey while flying but also hunts from a perch. Eats a varied assortment of prey, including beach and land crabs, frogs, fishes, crayfish, reptiles, small mammals, birds, and insects.

REFERENCES: Heintzelman 1979, Oberholser 1974a, Schnell 1979.

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