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Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus)



Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus)
Order: Falconiformes, Family: Accipitridae

The common black-hawk is found in the southwestern United States, throughout Mexico, Central America, and northern South America to Guyana. They can also be found in Cuba and The Isle of Pines. Mass: 630 to 1,300 kg. The common black-hawk averages 53 cm in length (21 inches) and has a wingspan of 127 cm (50 inches.) Like most other raptor species, common black-hawks are sexually dimorphic, with the females being larger than the males.



I. GEOGRAPHIC RANGE
  • The common black-hawk is found in the southwestern United States, throughout Mexico, Central America, and northern South America to Guyana. They can also be found in Cuba and The Isle of Pines.
II. PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
  • Mass: 630 to 1,300 kg.
  • The common black-hawk averages 53 cm in length (21 inches) and has a wingspan of 127 cm (50 inches.) Like most other raptor species, common black-hawks are sexually dimorphic, with the females being larger than the males.
  • Both sexes exhibit the same coloration. The head, body, and wing coverts are coal black. The under wing is black with the exception of a small white mark at the base of the outer two or three primaries. The black tail has one wide white band and a thin white terminal band. The iris color is dark brown. The cere (the fleshy covering at the top of the beak), legs and facial skin are a bright orange-yellow.
  • In contrast to the adults, the immature black-hawk is dark brown with buff streaking. Coloration of the head and face includes a buff line over the eye, a dark eye-line, a buff cheek and a dark vertical stripe running down the face. The immature black-hawk's iris color is medium brown.
III. FOOD HABITS
  • The black-hawk primarily feeds on snakes, frogs, fishes, young birds and land crabs. Sometimes the black-hawk supplements its diet with a variety of insects including grasshoppers and caterpillars.
  • Reportedly, the black-hawks of Belize feed primarily on large land crabs.
IV. REPRODUCTION
  • The black-hawk breeding season runs from late February to late May. Copulation occurs about 15 to 90 meters from the nest on a branch or rock. The male may sweep down and land directly on the female, or he may perch beside her for a time before mounting. Up to four copulations per day occur as the egg laying period approaches.
  • The nests of this species are usually built within 120 m (480ft) of permanent flowing waters and are typically constructed 15 to 30 m (60 to 120ft) above the ground. Occasionally nests have been found in rocky recesses. The clutch size is relatively small in this species, ranging from 1 to 3 eggs. The eggs have a granular surface, and the color of the eggs is grayish-white with small specks and blotches. The eggs measure about 57x45 mm (2.5 X 1.5 inches). Incubation lasts for 38 to 39 days.
  • Fledging period is between 43 to 50 days, and post-fledging dependence of the juvenile on the adult lasts 6 to 8 weeks.
V. BEHAVIOR
  • No detailed information is available on pair bonding, territoriality, or most other aspects of this species' social behavior. The pair often flies together, with their wings fluttering and held at a strong dihedral angle. Loud and hoarse whistles are common during nesting season.
VI. HABITAT
  • Generally these birds inhabit lowland areas with a source of water nearby where crabs, crayfish or other aquatic foods are found. There are usually trees nearby for roosting and nesting.
  • In Panama the birds are mainly found in coastal areas. They will range into the interior by following the course of a large river. In South and Central America the absence or presence of crabs may determine local presence of the species.
VIII. CONSERVATION
  • Currently the North, Central and South American populations of black-hawks seem to be self-sustaining, but the species exhibits a low reproduction rate. Conservation of the Black-Hawk depends on maintaining vital regions of riverbank habitat. The common black-hawk is considered threatened in Texas.



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