A Short-tailed Hawk is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Short-tailed Hawks. We have also put together a list of fun Short-tailed Hawk t-shirts, Short-tailed Hawk bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird watching items.
About the Short-tailed Hawk
The Short-tailed Hawk is a small bird of prey native to North America. They belong to the family Accipitridae which also includes eagles and old-world vultures. They are not considered as true hawks hence described as a buteo or buzzard when outside America. They are few in Florida though their numbers are fairly stable. As numbers continue to show up in northwestern regions of the United States, their numbers are increasing in Mexico.
Description and Identification
Short-tailed Hawks are smaller than other hawks, with their size being more similar to crows. They
are 15.3-17.3 inches long with a wingspan between 32.7-40.5 inches. They display sexual
dimorphism — with the females being larger than the males. In regards to other physical
characteristics, both sexes are similar. These birds don’t actually have short tails; it only looks like
they do because of their unusually long wings which reach their tail tips. Their black bills have a
bluish-black base and a greenish-yellow cere. Short-tailed Hawks have black talons and light
yellow legs and feet. Adults have dark brown irises, whereas younglings have light brown irises.
When humans approach the nests of these birds they make a long high-pitched “keeper” sound.
Short-tailed Hawks are generally silent when they are not breeding.
Short-tailed Hawk Color Pattern
The birds differ in color depending on the different morphs that exist because of interbreeding. They range from dark brownish grays to lighter shades but their underparts are white with light streaks of gray and brown toward the wing and tail tips.
Short-tailed Hawk Size
They are small-medium-sized birds with their length ranging 37-43cm and a wingspan of 85-95cm. Their weight ranges between 390-450g.
Short-tailed Hawk Behavior
The Short-tailed Hawk hunts from soaring flight while circling areas where they think they could get prey. Their frequent moving pattern is kiting which involves coming to a stop in midair when gliding against the wind.
They attack prey with a vertical swoop and sometimes stop to pause in midair in a step-like pattern before advancing to get prey.
Short-tailed Hawk Food
Short-tailed Hawks are American birds of prey that usually feed on smaller birds. Most of their diet
is made up of red-winged blackbirds and eastern meadowlarks. These birds only hunt adult birds,
they do not seem interested in younglings. They display a frequent maneuver called kiting when
hunting in which the birds hold their wings out and soar in the air. These birds spot birds while
flying at a high altitude, and dive down to capture their prey once it is sighted. Only 11% of their
hunts are successful. Other organisms consumed by Short-tailed Hawks are lizards, rodents,
insects, and snakes. On rare occasions, these birds can also be sighted hunting from perches.
They commonly feed on small birds ranging from the size of small songbirds up to birds of the size of the Mourning Dove. They also feed on snakes, frogs, lizards, rodents, and insects.
Short-tailed Hawk Habitat
Short-tailed Hawks breed in tall riparian forests, such as mangroves or cypress swamps. Outside of
the breeding season, they can be found near coastal areas, suburban areas, and open countries. They
prefer open forests, and they generally roost together in large trees. While hunting they move to
open fields or forest edges, as the wind conditions in these areas are more suitable for their
You can find the Short-tailed Hawk in Pine forests, wood edges, cypress swamps, and mangroves. The main feature about their habitats is their dominant presence in Florida and their proximity to woodlands.
Range and Migration
Short-tailed Hawks are birds of prey with a very long breeding range. They are a common sight in
tropical and subtropical Americas. Their range extends from southeastern Brazil to southern
Florida. Most populations of these birds are migratory. Short-tailed hawks residing in Mexico can
migrate all the way to Costa Rica. South American Short-tailed Hawks are generally permanent
Short-tailed Hawk Nesting
Short-tailed Hawks breed form January to July. These birds are monogamous in nature. Males
court the females by circling above their nest sites. Following this, the males present the females
with prey or nest materials. An interesting mating ritual of theirs is to hold each other by their talons
and tumble towards the ground. Females construct the nests while the males provide them with the
nest material. These nests are usually located at the top of tall trees such as cypresses. Short-
tailed hawks might build up to three nests before finalizing one nest for breeding. They might reuse
the same nests in consequent years or build nests in close vicinity to their older nests. Short-tailed
Hawks only raise one brood annually, which consists of two eggs. While the females incubate the
eggs, the males provide them with food.
Short-tailed Hawk Life Cycle
Female Short-tailed Hawks lay between 2-3 eggs and incubate the eggs for 34 days. The development of young ones from the day they hatch to the day they take the first flight is not well known. Their lifespan is also not known.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Short-tailed Hawks
The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing Short-tailed Hawks are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
Short-tailed Hawk T-shirts
If you love the Short-tailed Hawk you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Short-tailed Hawk Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Short-tailed Hawk is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Short-tailed Hawk Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Short-tailed Hawk. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.
Bird Feeders For Short-tailed Hawk
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Short-tailed Hawk
There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.