Harris Hawk Facts: North American Animals

Physical description

Harris Hawk (COM)Parabuteo unicinctus), also known as the “dusty” or “bay-winged” falcon, is a common name for a relatively large bird of prey that lives in an area that stretches from the southwestern United States to the southern half of South America. These hawks stand out clearly, with bold markings of dark brown, maroon, red, and white. They have relatively long, yellow legs and yellow markings on the face. They also have a white tip on their tails, and adults are 46 to 59 centimeters long, and the ranges are usually between 103 and 120 centimeters. Females are about 35% larger than males. Three subspecies of Harris Hawk include P. and Harrisi, found in Texas, Central America and Mexico, P. and considerliving in western Mexico and Arizona and P. and Unicinctuswho live in the wild exclusively on the South American continent and are smaller than their North American cousins. Harris hawks belong to the same genus as the white hawks from South America. Your scientific name, Parabuteo unicinctus, is derived from Latin and Greek words in free translation, meaning “similar to a buzzer with a single strap,” and refers to the white band around the tip of each of their tails.


These birds of prey predominantly feed on endangered creatures that include lizards, large insects, small mammals, and other smaller birds. Falcons often hunt in groups of up to six animals and can therefore kill larger prey such as rabbits, desert cotton tails or blue herons. This is why they have certain traits adapted to this function, such as stronger and larger feet with long claws, as well as larger and more prominent hooks compared to most other birds of prey in their size, which allow them to withstand such large killings. In hunting, they often subdue their prey by surrounding them and rinsing them so that others can catch them, or literally forcing them into a state of exhaustion. Hunting groups usually consist of two to six falcons.

Habitat and range

Harris hawks occupy mostly open habitats, including sparsely covered forests, semi-arid areas, mangrove swamps, and wetlands. These birds are permanent residents and do not migrate easily. They are mostly found in North America, although some have also been recorded in Western Europe, but this is probably due to the fact that it is also a popular species in falconry, so falcons could escape it in captivity. When building their nests, they prefer scattered large trees. Other potential homes with features that are desirable for hawks include forest edges, standing dead trees, power pillars, and even boulders. The Harris hawk is not currently listed as one of the endangered or endangered bird species, in part because they build their nests so high above the ground that predators cannot easily reach them. Their social nature also gives them strength in numbers, and they can easily make emergency calls to warn others and harass their potential predators like coyotes, ravens, and great horned owls. In fact, Harry’s hawks are rarely hunted, often for falconry where people hunt, kill migratory birds and fetch their game. Despite this, their wild populations have become more vulnerable in recent decades, mainly due to habitat loss caused by human land development activities.


Unlike other solitary birds of prey, the harris hawk is quite a social bird and, as mentioned, often lives together. They are also relatively easy around people, which is a fact that has made them popular among falconers and in aviaries and other bird educational institutions. Their social nature also facilitates cooperation during participation in nests. Young Harris falcons can “fly away” (physically developed enough to fly) 45 to 50 days after hatching. On average, the Harris hawk will live between 15 and 20 years.


The female falcon performs most of the incubation, and the eggs usually hatch in 31 to 36 days. During mating, it has been observed that two males often look after the female, although it is not particularly clear what the role of the other male is usually. The chicks begin to explore outside the nest around the age of 38. The female harris hawk can be bred twice or thrice a year, and they are known to protect their young and stay with them for up to three years.

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