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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Broad-winged Hawk -- Buteo platypterus


RANGE: Breeds in central Alberta and central Saskatchewan, and from central Manitoba to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia south to eastern Texas, the Gulf Coast and Florida. Winters in southern Florida and from Mexico to South America.

STATUS: Common throughout range.

HABITAT: Inhabits continuous dry woodlands of oaks, beeches, maples, and mixed coniferous-hardwoods around lakes, streams, and swamps. In migration when conditions are favorable, forms large flocks, or "kettles," soars to the top of thermals, and then glides to another, thus saving energy during the long flight to its wintering area.

NEST: Normally nests near water in a variety of tree species, from 25 to 90 feet, but as low as 3 to 10 feet, above ground. Nest site preference is probably related to life form of the tree species and characteristics of the site rather than to prevalence of a particular tree species. Black and yellow birch are commonly selected for nesting in New England. Sometimes uses old crow, hawk, or squirrel nests.

FOOD: Hunts from perch in deep, shady woodlands or while flying over treetops or open meadows. Feeds largely on small mammals such as mice, moles, and shrews, occasionally red squirrels and chipmunks; also eats snakes, frogs, lizards, large larvae of night-flying moths, caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, fiddler crabs, crayfish, sometimes small fish, and some small birds.

REFERENCES: DeGraff et al. 1980, Evans in Farrand 1983a, Forbush and May 1955, Heintzelman 1979, Matray 1974, Sprunt 1955, Terres 1980.


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