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Broad-winged Hawk

Buteo platypterus

Length: 13 - 18 inches Wingspan: 32 - 38 inches Seasonality: Migrant / Summer
ID Keys: Broad bands on tail, dark brown upperparts, reddish barred underparts

Broad-winged Hawk - Buteo platypterus The Broad-winged Hawk is the smallest of the North American Buteo hawk species.  They are generally found near forest edges and clearings, where they can be seen perched on a branch as they scope the ground below for potential prey. During migration, thousands may congregate along ridgelines and coastlines or other locations with favorable wind conditions. Relatively tame, Broad-winged Hawks can often be approached more closely than most hawks.

In South Dakota, Broad-winged Hawks are most often seen as migrants. In spring, that may often be as individual birds, but very large kettles of migrating Broad-winged Hawks can sometimes be seen in autumn. Small numbers do breed in the far eastern part of the state, primarily in the riparian and nearby forests along river systems.


 Breeds in deciduous or mixed forest, generally near clearings.  Prefers locations near water.  During migration, they may be found in nearly any habitat, but generally roost in forest at night.


Will feed on a wide variety of items, including small mammals, frogs, snakes, lizards, small birds, large insects, and earthworms.


Broad-tailed Hawks usually hunt from a perch, often along forest and woodland edges and near water.  During courtship, pairs may be seen circling high in the sky together, calling to each other, and then plummeting towards the ground together.


May through July. Broad-winged Hawks nest in either deciduous or mixed forests, and will build their nests in either deciduous or conifer trees. Most commonly, the nest is placed next to the trunk on a horizontal branch, in the lower part of a tall tree. A nest platform built of sticks and twigs is first constructed, and then a bowl is constructed within that, lined with bits of bark and other vegetative material, occasionally with other material such as feathers, roots, or mosses. The female lays between 2 and 5 eggs, and both parents help to incubate the eggs. Incubation lasts about 30 days, with the young fledging from the nest 5 to 6 weeks after hatching.


The call of a Broad-winged Hawk is a thin, high-pitched whistle with a short first note followed by a much longer second note of the same tone.


 Summers throughout most of the eastern United States, and southeastern and south-central Canada.  Long distance migrants, most Broad-winged Hawks fly to South America for the winter. They sometimes form huge "kettles" in migration that may consist of many thousands of birds.

Interactive eBird Map:

 Click to access an interactive eBird map of Broad-winged Hawk sightings

Similar Species:

Broad-winged Hawks could be confused with their "Buteo" Hawk cousins, given the similar overall structure, or perhaps confused with the "Accipiter" Hawk species given the plumage pattern and size. Click here for a page that describes differences between the "Buteo" hawk species, and identification keys for each. Otherwise, here are keys for differentiating Broad-winged Hawks from some of the most similar species:

Red-shouldered Hawk - Buteo lineatus Red-tailed Hawk 9 - Buteo jamaicensis Cooper's Hawk 5 - Accipiter cooperii Sharp-shinned Hawk 9 - Accipiter striatus
Red-shouldered Hawk Red-tailed Hawk Cooper's Hawk Sharp-shinned Hawk

Conservation Status:

Broad-winged Hawks are found across a broad geographic range, and are common in parts of that range. Recent systematic surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey show increases in population over the last few decades. The IUCN considers the Broad-winged Hawk to be a species of "Least Concern".

South Dakota "Hotspot":

Very small numbers breed in the far eastern part of the state, but they are most commonly found during migration. They prefer forested areas are often found perched in a tree on the edge of a forest clearing. Forest habitat in general isn't exactly widespread in South Dakota, so the best places to look for them in migration are in the heavily wooded parks and riparian areas along the eastern edge of the state, including the Big Sioux Recreation Area, Newton Hills State Park, Beaver Creek Nature Area, and North Alabama Bend.

Further Information:

Photo Information:

Photo by Terry Sohl - May 4th, 2015 - Big Sioux Recreation Area near Brandon, South Dakota.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the range map for a higher-resolution view
Broad-winged Hawk - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant in the northeast part of the state, uncommon elsewhere.  Rare to uncommon summer resident in the Black Hills, and the extreme northeastern and southeastern corners of the state.
 Additional Broad-winged Hawk Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Broad-winged Hawk 1 - Buteo platypterusBroad-winged Hawk 2 - Buteo platypterusBroad-winged Hawk 3 - Buteo platypterusBroad-winged Hawk 4 - Buteo platypterusBroad-winged Hawk 5 - Buteo platypterusBroad-winged Hawk 6 - Buteo platypterusBroad-winged Hawk 7 - Buteo platypterusBroad-winged Hawk 8 - Buteo platypterusBroad-winged Hawk 9 - Buteo platypterusBroad-winged Hawk 10 - Buteo platypterusBroad-winged Hawk 11 - Buteo platypterusBroad-winged Hawk 12 - Buteo platypterusBroad-winged Hawk 13 - Buteo platypterus