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Common Black Hawk

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Aripo Valley

An all black bird with a single white band and white tip on the short tail. The bill is yellow with a black tip and the legs are either yellow or orange. The eyes are brown; the cere, lores and gape bright yellow. Female is like the male. The immature have dark brown upperparts and whitish underparts. Length is 43-52 cm and weight: males 790 grams, females 1,200 grams.

It is shorter-legged, less stocky, than the Great Black Hawk, without white on upper-tail coverts and at rest the tail does not project beyond the wings. It is also more robust looking and with shorter, broader wings than the Zone-tailed Hawk. It is similar but larger than the Rufous Crab-Hawk. The young, largely rufous and buff, streaked and barred black, is unlike any other hawk but its relative, the Great Black Hawk.

This resident of Trinidad is found in forests and mangrove swamps. It feeds mainly on crabs but also takes frogs, snakes, fish stranded in pools or even larger ones washed up dead on the beach and, less commonly, small or young mammals and slow-moving birds. Large insects, such as grasshoppers and caterpillars, are also eaten. Although hawks are considered by many to be fierce birds I observed this particular bird being chased by a Kiskadee for a considerable period. In general this is a sluggish hawk that spends a lot of time on concealed perches in the foliage, from which it drops on its prey. It does not soar very much, except in the breeding season, when it can be seen circling around even over arid hillsides near river bottoms.

Family - Hawks

Other Names - Crab Hawk

Latin Name - Buteogallus anthracinus

Range - from Arizona south to northern South America, and on St. Vincent and Cuba.

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DeGraaf, Richard M., Virgil E. Scott, R.H. Hamre, Liz Ernst, and Stanley H. Anderson. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States natural history and habitat use. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Agriculture Handbook 688. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.

Steinwand, J. 2001. "Buteogallus anthracinus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. at

Puerto Rico's Birds in Photographs. 2nd edition, Mark Oberle. 2003, Editorial Humanitas, Seattle Washington

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds of the World, David Alderton. 2004 Lorenz Books, London

Birds of Venezuela. Steven L. Hilty. 2003, Christopher Helm, London

A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. 2nd edition, Richard ffrench. 1992, Helm, London

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Last modified: February 16, 2008