At the Zoo
Our Harris's hawk currently resides in the Koret Animal Resource Center.
- Harris's hawks are often used in the sport of falconry.
- These birds are sometimes seen standing on top of each other when perching options are limited; this behavior is called “back-stacking”.
- The harris’s hawk is named after Edward Harris, a good friend of the famed ornithologist John James Audubon.
These birds are medium in size, with an average weight of about 2 pounds and a 40-47 inch wingspan. Like many birds of prey, females are typically larger than males. They are mostly dark brown with chestnut shoulders and thighs. Their tail is long with white at both the tip and base. Harris’s hawks have striking yellow skin around their beak and on their legs. Juveniles look similar to adults but with significantly more white on the chest.
Lifespan is around 15 years in the wild, and up to 25 in captivity.
These hawks have an extensive range from the southwestern United States through Central America and into much of the drier areas of South America. They are found in semi-arid habitats such as open mesquite and saguaro desert, scrub prairie, woodlands along rivers, and more recently, in suburban areas.
Their diet consists primarily of rabbit, hare, squirrel and other rodents. They will also hunt medium sized birds and small reptiles. At the zoo, they eat mice, chicks, rabbit and rat.
Unlike most raptors, harris’s hawks are social birds. Social structure varies throughout their range, sometimes found as monogamous pairs but more often in small family groups. Most groups consist of a dominant, mating pair and a few subordinate individuals. It is not uncommon for juveniles to remain in the area to help raise new chicks, sometimes for up to three years.
This species is also well-known to hunt cooperatively to help increase their chances of success. One or two birds will attempt to flush prey from hiding places while others wait, ready for the chase.
Breeding season for the harris’s hawk is year-round. A pair will typically raise 2-3 clutches per year when conditions are favorable. Nests are made with sticks and lined with grasses in small trees or arm of a large cactus. Pairs of birds may make more than one nest in their range and reuse nesting sites year after year. Females do the bulk of incubation for the pair’s 3-4 bluish-white eggs for 33-36 days. Chicks are often fed by the breeding pair as well as subordinate adults and juveniles. Young are independent after about 40 days.
Status In The Wild
The Harris's hawk is listed as least concern by the IUCN and protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. However, they are threatened in parts of their range by habitat loss.