About Hawks

Hawks are birds with sharp claws and hooked beaks that help them catch and eat prey items such as rodents, lizards, and other birds. For this reason, along with kites, eagles, and owls, hawks are commonly known as “birds of prey” or “raptors”. In the rainforests of Tambopata, there are at least 40 species of birds that fall into this category, 10 of which are hawks. The Peruvian Amazon can play host to such an incredible diversity of raptors because its rainforests, rivers, and oxbow lakes harbor such a huge variety of prey items.

There are raptors that specialize on everything from snakes to large insects, other birds, and even monkeys. The hawk species of Tambopata tend to prey on small birds, rats and mice, frogs, and large insects. The rarely seen Tiny Hawk (Accipiter superciliosus) catches hummingbirds while little known forest raptors such as the White Hawk (Leucopternis albicollis) and White-browed Hawk (Leucopternis kuhli) are believed to mostly eat reptiles and amphibians.

The most commonly seen hawks in Tambopata are three species that occur at the edge of the forest and along rivers: These are the Gray-lined Hawk (Buteo nitidus), Great Black-Hawk (Buteogallus urubitinga), and the Roadside Hawk (Buteo magnirostris).

  • The Gray-lined Hawk is sometimes also called the “Gray Hawk” and is named after its mostly gray plumage. It hunts for birds and small mammals in open and semi-forested areas.
  • The Great Black-Hawk is named after its large, bulky size and mostly black plumage. This striking bird hunts for small animals (including parakeets at clay licks) along the shores of the Tambopata River and often perches on driftwood.
  • The Roadside Hawk is named after its tendency to perch on posts and telephone wires although in Tambopata, this hawk is frequently seen in riverside trees. This medium-sized raptor hunts for small birds, mice, lizards, insects, and even tarantulas along the edge of the Tambopata River.

A few interesting facts about hawks of the Tambopata rainforest:

  • Different shapes for different hunting strategies: Some hawks have long wings while others have short wings and long tails. Most species have a slightly different shape that reflects their hunting strategies. For example, whereas species with long wings and a short tail search for prey while soaring high in the sky, hawks that hunt inside the forest have shorter wings and long tails that help them maneuver in thick vegetation.
  • Natural binocular vision: The eyesight of hawks and other raptors is much, much better than that of any person (see the video below or click here. Their eyes can have 5 times more photoreceptors than those of people and are shaped to actually magnify the central part of their visual field.
Hawks in Tambopata, Peru
Hawk in Tambopata, Peru

How to see hawks when taking an Amazon adventure tour:

  • Watch for them perched in riverside trees: Many species of hawks in Tambopata perch in trees at the edge of the river. When traveling by boat, keep an eye out for large birds in riverside trees. Some of them may turn out to be a hawk that is watching and waiting for prey.
  • Look for soaring birds: Although most birds up in the sky are going to be vultures, some could end up being hawks that are soaring over the forest in their search for prey.

To see hawks and other raptor species in the Amazon, take a jungle adventure tour with Rainforest Expeditions.

As Seen in

National Geographic
The Huffington Post
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Popular Science