9 Stunning Hawks with White Heads

hawks with white heads

White-headed hawks are rare birds worth closer attention. Their distinctive appearance has inspired the legends and lore of many cultures and scientific curiosity since the 1800s.

This article will explore the nine hawks with white heads you can find across the globe and some fun facts about each. Read on to discover more!

The White-necked Hawk (Buteogallus Lacernulatus)

white neck hawk

White-necked hawks are known for their large size and white head. They have a height of about 17 to 19 inches and a wingspan of about 35.8 to 39.7 inches. 

They have a pure white head and underparts, yellow beak bases, black-gray upper parts, and whitetails decorated with black bands. 

Their habitat includes forests, savannas, grasslands, scrublands, and wetlands in South America, especially in Brazil.

They eat small mammals such as rodents, birds, reptiles, insects, and invertebrates. Like other raptors, they’re opportunistic feeders which will prey on any vulnerable small animal.

Interesting Facts

  • Their population is decreasing because they have been hunted for food, and many believe their feathers and bones have medicinal properties.
  • Some communities in Brazil use their feathers as headdresses in cultural ceremonies.
  • The female can lay anywhere from 2-3 eggs per clutch, but only 1 out of 3 will survive until hatching due to natural predators like birds or mammals which prey on them.

White-necked hawks mate for life, meaning you’ll typically see them in pairs.

Hawaiian Hawk (Buteo solitarius)

hawaiian hawk

The Hawaiian hawk, also known as the (io), is a native forest bird of Hawai’i. They’re mainly found in rainforests and wet forests on the Big Island and Maui.

They’re medium-sized hawks with a length of 16 to 18 inches, a wingspan of 34 to 39.7 inches, and a lifespan of 17 years.

These birds feed on rodents, insects, and invertebrates (crickets, katydids, and earthworms) but will also eat other birds, especially those that intrude on their territory.

Interesting Facts

  • They hunt by perching on power lines or high up in the tree canopy, looking for prey below them, and then swoop down from their perch onto unsuspecting prey.
  • Hawaiian hawks mate for life, usually selecting the same nesting spot year after year. If one mate dies, the other will find a new partner within three months.
  • They’re also well known for their call. When they find food, they call out to let their mate know it’s time to share some food.
  • The male typically offers some food to his female before eating himself.

Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus)

rough legged hawk

The Rough-legged Hawk, a.k.a Rough-legged Buzzard, is a medium-sized hawk of boreal forests, grasslands, and open fields in North America, Europe, and Asia. 

They have a length of 18 to 24 inches, a wingspan of 47 to 60 inches, and enjoy a lifespan of up to 15 years.

It feeds mainly on rodents but will take other small mammals, birds, amphibians, slugs, and reptiles. In winter, it will hunt snowshoe hares on the tundra.

Interesting Facts

  • The female builds a stick nest in the forks of trees or on power poles.
  • Hunting techniques involve perching on a rock or higher place, waiting for an unsuspecting victim to come by and dive on it.
  • While most populations are resident all year long in their natural habitats, others are partial migrants, especially in winter or when faced with food scarcity.
  • Their wings beating through the air make a distinctive whistling noise.

The White Hawk (Pseudastur albicollis)

white hawk

The white hawk is a beautiful bird with pure white plumage from head to tail and underparts, but its feathers have black streaks.

You can find this bird in South America, Mexico, and Central America, usually inhabiting mountainsides where it nests on ledges.

They’re 18 to 20 inches long, with a wingspan of 38.5 to 43.3 inches, and have a lifespan of up to 20 years.

They feed mainly on lizards, small mammals, snakes, and large insects like locusts. Sometimes they may also steal food from other birds or eat carrion. 

Interesting Facts

  • They’re typically more aggressive than other hawks because they don’t have camouflage. 
  • They’re also prone to get hit by cars because they’re less likely to be seen.
  • They use their long tail feathers for display during courtship and territorial displays.
  • Their nests are made of grasses, twigs, and other plants. The female does most of the building.

Mantled Hawk (Pseudastur Polionotus)

The Mantled Hawk is a medium-sized hawk in South America and is distinguishable by its white head with a black mantle (the covering).

This hawk has a wingspan of 46.7 to 50.7 inches and can grow up to 18 to 20 inches long.

The Mantled Hawk can be found in various habitats, including forest edges, woodlands, open country, and cities. 

The hawk’s favorite prey is small to medium-sized mammals, especially rodents. It’ll also take birds, reptiles, amphibians, large insects, and other small animals. 

Interesting Facts

  • They hunt by perching on a high tree or rock overlooking an area where prey is likely to pass by. They also fly low over fields or meadows, looking for animal activity.
  • These hawks nest on cliffs or high trees and lay one egg every clutch.
  • They use the mantles for defense against predators and larger raptors such as Ferruginous hawks.

The most distinctive feature of this species is its large eyes, which contribute to its excellent vision and strong legs that make it an agile predator.

The Osprey Hawk (Pandion haliaetus)

Osprey Hawk

The Osprey is a diurnal and most widely distributed raptor worldwide except in Antarctica. It’s highly populated, especially in North America.

They have white heads with a wide brown streak through the eyes, dark brown upper parts, and white underparts, and their wings form an M-shaped pattern when soaring.

They’re about 19.7 to 26 inches long with a wingspan of about 50 to 71 inches and a lifespan of 15 to 20 years.

Generally, this raptor lives near coasts or large bodies of water like lakes or rivers, where it nests. It’s also common near marshlands or wetlands and high Arctics.

 In some areas, such as Idaho, Alaska, Florida, or Nevada, you might find an Osprey nesting near sagebrush-covered mountainsides and lakeshores.

Interesting Facts

  • Unlike other hawks, the Osprey has long wings that allow it to soar over great distances while searching for food.
  • These powerful birds use keen eyesight and keen hearing to spot their prey.
  • An osprey is unique among hawks due to their reversible external toes, allowing them to grab objects using four claws on their feet; two front toes and two behind.
  • They nest at high altitudes due to the availability of prey sources, such as salmon near lakes.

Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo Regalis)

Ferruginous Hawk

The Ferruginous Hawk is one of the aggressive birds of prey. It’s the largest of the Buteos family and the most common hawk in North America.

This hawk eats small mammals such as mice, voles, rats, and rabbits. However, it’s an opportunistic feeder and sometimes preys on other hawks and bird species.

They are mostly found in open country and mountainous areas, but they can also be found near cities. 

Interesting Facts

  • One reason for their higher population and abundance in their natural habitats is that this hawk doesn’t migrate like others.
  • You might mistake them for bald eagles based on their size, proportions, and behavior. 
  • The Ferruginous Hawk’s nest consists of a platform constructed from sticks lined with leaves, straw, or grasses. 
  • Their nests are usually built in trees or on 20 to 40 feet high cliff ledges.

Black-faced Hawk (Leucopternis Melanops)

black face hawk

Black-faced hawks are medium-sized and one of the rare hawks to see in the wild. They’re about 15.5 inches long with a wingspan of 50 inches and black and white plumage.

You can spot these birds in South America, Central America, and Mexico. They typically live in forest edges and lowland forests near mangroves and rivers.

They feed on feed on fish, frogs, large insects, rabbits, rats, mice, squirrels, voles, and other small animals. They also prey on other birds, especially Blue Jays that mimic them.

Interesting Facts

  • They use long tails to balance when perching on high branches and strong talons that can hold prey as heavy as 24 pounds.
  • The black-faced hawk isn’t considered an aggressive bird but can become territorial during breeding season when they defend its nest.
  • They may try to scare you off if you cross their territory by swooping toward you or screaming loudly.
  • Unlike other raptors, males take care of the nestlings and may mate with more than one female during the nesting season.

Gray Goshawk (Accipiter novaehollandiae)

Gray Goshawk

The Gray Goshawk is one of the most common species of hawk in Australia and one of the most widespread in the world. 

They primarily feed on rodents like mice and rats and medium-sized birds like quail and small ducks. They also take larger prey like rabbits if they’re hungry enough. 

Their habitat varies depending on where you find them, but they prefer forests, woodlands, wet sclerophyll forests, dry eucalypt forests, arid scrubland, and coastal areas.

You can recognize these hawks from afar by their white head, light gray body, and habit of circling in a “kettle” high above the sky, especially during migration or breeding.

Interesting Facts

  • They can be found all over mainland Australia and Tasmania but aren’t often seen because they are naturally shy and secretive.
  • These hawks have a lifespan ranging from 10 to 15 years, but most young ones rarely make it past their 3rd year due to predation from foxes and feral cats.
  • Gray Goshawks hunt at dawn or dusk when prey animals’ eyesight is weak, an unusual strategy among raptors who usually hunt during the day.
  • When hunting, they prefer to sit quietly on a tree and wait for prey to get close before swooping silently onto their target.

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