Harris Hawk Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

Harris hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus) is a medium-sized bird of prey which is found in much of the southwestern United States, central Argentina, and south to Chile. The bird is threatened in many areas and is also disappeared from its former range including lower Colorado River Valley. Unlike many other birds of prey the Harris hawk is a sociable bird.

Harris Hawk Facts


  • The Harris hawk is 46 to 59 cm (18 to 23 in) long with the wingspan measuring up to 103 to 120 cm (41 to 47 in). The adult male weighs up to 701 g (1.545 lb) while the females are 1,029 g (2.269 lb) in weight.
  • Harris hawk is recognized by its sooty brown plumage and its appearance reminds us of a golden eagle. The shoulders, thighs, and underwings are reddish-brown whereas the tail is black.
  • The beak is yellow from the start but as it goes towards the tip-end it becomes grey.


  • The Harris hawk is distributed all over the southwest United States to Mexico, ranging from Central America, Ecuador, Peru, and western Columbia.
  • P.v. unicinctus is found across the Northeastern Columbia, Bolivia, Chile, western Venezuela, southern Argentina, and Brazil.


The Harris hawk makes home in a variety of habitats such as dry desert, cactus deserts, river woods, brush, savanna and Chaco. It rarely finds habitats in swampland. The hawk is most likely to breed in areas which have large water bodies.

harris hawk facts
Harris Hawk. courtesy www.deviantart.com


  • The Harris hawk largely lives a sedentary life (with no or little physical activity). It is found in groups comprising three or more individuals.
  • Like falcons, Harris hawk is very agile through air and is able to catch prey through the dense bush.
  • They are often seen hunting pairs. If the prey is very large then the bird shares the food.

Feeding Ecology and Diet

  • The Harris hawk is an active hunter and it readily feeds on birds, lizards, and small mammals. It also eats many other different creatures such as wood-rats, ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, rabbits, and medium-sized birds include woodpeckers and quail.
  • The diet is primarily composed of large lizards and insects. The prey can be as large as jackrabbits, wild turkeys, and great blue herons. In the northern range harris hawk more readily feeds on the desert cottontail (Syvilagus auduboni).
  • In the Southwestern United States, harris hawk consumes range of prey species such as black-tailed jackrabbit, woodrats, pocket gophers, ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, eastern cottontail, scaled quail, cactus wren, northern mockingbird, northern bobwhite, and desert spiny lizards.

Reproductive Biology

  • The average clutch size is 3 – 4 but it also ranges from 1 to 5.
  • The eggs are pale-bluish with some spots on it.
  • The incubation period lasts 33 – 36 days. The male hawk will bring female a food while the latter incubates the eggs.
  • The young begins to fly in about 45 – 50 days. However they will stay with their parents for about 3 years. Both parents are likely to raise 2 or 3 young each season.
  • They build nests with plant roots, moss, leaves, barks, stems, and sticks. These nests are found in small trees or shrubby growth.

Conservation Status

Least Concern

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