12 Amazing Hawks With White Heads

Amazing hawks with white heads

Hawks with white heads are rare and captivating avian species that deserve the utmost attention. Their distinct appearance has inspired legends and folklore across different cultures throughout history.

They also piqued the scientific curiosity of experts since the 1800s. Besides their majestic appearance, what more can we expect from hawks with white heads?

In this article, we will dive deep into the intriguing world of these extraordinary birds. So prepare to be amazed as you learn fascinating fun facts about each of these birds with white heads!

12 Hawks With White Heads

1. White-necked Hawk

White necked Hawk
Scientific NameButeogallus lacernulatus
Conservation StatusVulnerable
Length17–19 in (43–48 cm)
Weight26.1–31.7 oz (740–900 g)
Wingspan36–40 in (91–101 cm)
LifespanUp to 20 years

The White-necked Hawk is a raptor known for its distinct appearance. These birds’ plumage is pure and dazzling with a white neck, head, and underparts, contrasting against dark gray or black upper parts.

They also feature a yellow base on their sharp, hooked beak, adding visual interest. Found in Central and South America, these hawks with white heads thrive in tropical rainforests and wooded areas.

Agile and precise, they hunt small mammals, birds, reptiles, and large insects. White-necked Hawks construct nests in trees, laying 1 to 2 eggs cared for by both parents.

With their captivating presence and distinctive call, these birds symbolize the rich biodiversity of the neotropical regions they inhabit.

Interesting Facts About White-necked Hawks

  • The decline in their population can be attributed to them being hunted for food and sought after due to the belief that their feathers and bones have medicinal properties.
  • Within specific communities in Brazil, their feathers are utilized as headdresses during culturally meaningful ceremonies.
  • Only one out of three eggs successfully reaches the adult stage due to natural predators that prey on them.
  • White-necked Hawks exhibit a remarkable trait of mating for life, often leading to their presence in pairs being observed.

2. Hawaiian Hawk

Hawaiian Hawk
Image credit: kailanitours / Instagram
Scientific Name:Buteo solitarius
Conservation Status:Near Threatened
Length:15.5–18 in (39.4–45.7 cm)
Weight:15.6–21.3 oz (441–605 g)
Wingspan:40–45 in (101.6–114.3 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 17 years

The Hawaiian Hawk is native to the Hawaiian state and embodies the natural and cultural heritage of the Aloha archipelago. They are revered as the ‘aumakua’ — a spiritual god that is believed to embody grace and protection.

Hawaiian Hawks have dark brown plumage, prominent white heads, and piercing yellow eyes that exude an aura of intelligence and resilience. These features contribute to their regal and majestic presence in the Hawaiian skies.

These magnificent birds are regarded as opportunistic hunters whose diet depends on various food sources to sustain themselves. They prefer rodents, insects, and invertebrates like crickets and earthworms.

Interesting Facts About Hawaiian Hawks

  • Hawaiian hawks employ a hunting strategy where they gracefully perch on power lines or in the elevated branches of the tree canopy, keenly observing the area beneath them for potential prey. They swiftly descend from their high vantage point with great precision, surprising their unsuspecting quarry.
  • Hawaiian hawks form lifelong pair bonds demonstrating remarkable loyalty, often returning to the same nesting site year after year. In losing one mate, the remaining hawk will seek a new partner within three months.
  • Renowned for their distinctive vocalizations, these hawks utilize their calls to communicate with their partners, mainly when they have located a food source.
  • As an act of chivalry, the male Hawaiian Hawk typically presents a portion of food to its female companion before indulging in it. This generous gesture exemplifies the courtly behavior exhibited within their bond.

3. Rough-legged Hawk

Rough legged Hawk
Scientific Name:Buteo lagopus
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:18–24 in (45.7–61 cm)
Weight:34.6 oz (980 g)
Wingspan:52–58 in (132–147 cm)
Lifespan:16–20 years

The Rough-legged Hawk is commonly called the Rough-legged Buzzard. Known for their affinity for the Arctic tundra, these eagle-like raptors easily navigate the harsh northern landscapes.

Rough-legged Hawks have feathered legs, which is rarely found in other hawks. Its main function is to provide insulation against the frigid Arctic temperatures.

Their plumage varies between light and dark morphs, displaying a combination of brown, black, and white feathers. These variations allow for effective camouflage against the diverse landscapes they inhabit.

While Rough-legged Hawks primarily sustain themselves by preying on rodents, they exhibit remarkable versatility in their diet. They readily capture and consume other small mammals, birds, slugs, and reptiles.

Interesting Facts About Rough-legged Hawks

  • Female birds construct stick nests in the branches of trees or atop power poles.
  • Their hunting methods entail perching on elevated areas, such as rocks, patiently anticipating an unsuspecting prey to pass by before swiftly descending upon it.
  • Although the majority of these birds remain in their native habitats throughout the entire year, some populations exhibit partial migration, particularly during the winter season or when confronted with limited food resources.
  • The rhythmic flapping of their wings creates a unique whistling sound as they navigate through the open skies.

4. White Hawk

White Hawk
Scientific Name:Pseudastur albicollis
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:19–22 in (48–56 cm)
Weight:20.5–30 oz (580–850 g)
Wingspan:38.6–46.1 in (98–117 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 12 years

The White Hawk is a mesmerizing bird of prey that graces the skies with its striking, bright appearance and graceful flight. White Hawks are entirely white from head to tail and underparts.

White Hawks are native to the neotropical regions of Central and South America, where they inhabit various habitats, including tropical rainforests, cloud forests, and woodland areas.

These raptors predominantly indulge in a diet of lizards, small mammals, snakes, and large insects, such as locusts. In certain instances, they may resort to carrion consumption.

During one of my birdspotting adventures near the Amazon River Basin in Brazil, I was fortunate to capture the all-white beauty of this powerful hawk.

One thing that made me very curious about them was how they liked to follow the trails of Capuchin monkeys.

However, they do not make these monkeys their prey. With more patience, I realized that they follow these monkeys to target the animals these Capuchins scare into the open.

Here is a video about the White Hawk you can check out:

Interesting Facts About White Hawks

  • White Hawks tend to display a higher level of aggression than other hawks since they lack camouflage.
  • Due to their lower visibility, they are more susceptible to collisions with vehicles.
  • They use their elongated tail feathers as an impressive visual spectacle during courtship and territorial displays.
  • Constructed from grasses, twigs, and various plant materials, their nests primarily bear the mark of the female’s diligent construction efforts.

5. Mantled Hawk

Mantled Hawk
Image credit: romulosilva_biologo / Instagram
Scientific Name:Pseudastur polionotus
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:16–18 in (41–46 cm)
Weight:13.4–19.4 oz (380–550 g)
Wingspan:46.5–50.8 in (118–129 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 20 years

The Mantled Hawk is a bird with a white head that is indigenous to South America. Their white heads have striking black or dark gray feathers on their mantle cover, which showcases a genuinely sophisticated presence.

These hawks are found in lush rainforests, cloud forests, and wooded Central and South American areas. Their adaptability allows them to inhabit a range of altitudes, from lowland forests to mountainous regions.

These white-headed hawks further demonstrate adaptability in terms of habitat, thriving in diverse environments, such as forest edges, woodlands, open country, and even urban areas within cities.

Mantled Hawks feed on small to medium-sized mammals, particularly rodents, which form a significant part of their diet. However, they also prey on birds, reptiles, amphibians, and large insects.

Interesting Facts About Mantled Hawks

  • These hawks employ a hunting technique wherein they perch atop lofty trees or rocks, strategically observing areas frequented by potential prey. They gracefully glide at lower altitudes over fields and meadows, actively scanning for signs of animal activity.
  • Regarding nesting, these remarkable hawks prefer cliffs or lofty trees as their chosen habitats. During each reproductive cycle, they carefully lay a single egg.
  • In self-defense against predators and larger raptors like Ferruginous Hawks, these magnificent creatures extensively utilize their mantles.
  • The defining characteristic of this species lies in its notable large eyes, which contribute significantly to its exceptional vision. Furthermore, its robust legs provide remarkable agility, solidifying its prowess as a skilled predator.

6. Osprey

Scientific Name:Pandion haliaetus
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:20 in (50.8 cm)
Weight:49.4 oz (1400 g)
Wingspan:54–72 in (137–183 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 10 years

The Osprey Hawk is commonly seen soaring over the shorelines of North America, patrolling for live fish. They are also known as the Seal Hawk, River Hawk, and Fish Hawk.

With their distinct physical features, Ospreys stand out with a regal white head adorned by a pronounced brown streak that gracefully traverses through their eyes.

The upper parts of their plumage boast a deep and captivating dark brown hue, while the underparts exude a pristine white elegance.

The habitation preferences of Osprey Hawks are the coastlines or vast bodies of water, such as lakes or rivers, where they diligently construct their nests.

Interesting Facts About Ospreys

  • In contrast to its hawk counterparts, the Osprey possesses long wings that allow it to traverse vast distances as it tirelessly hunts for nourishment gracefully.
  • Armed with remarkable vision and acute auditory senses, these magnificent creatures rely on their sharp eyesight and keen hearing to detect their elusive quarry.
  • What sets the Osprey apart from other hawks is the extraordinary adaptability of its external toes, which can be reversed to enable the utilization of four powerful talons. With two toes positioned at the front and two at the rear, they possess a distinct advantage when grasping objects.
  • Ospreys prefer constructing their nests at elevated altitudes. The abundance of prey sources, such as the presence of salmon near lakes, primarily drives this choice.

7. Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk
Scientific Name:Buteo regalis
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:22–27 in (56–69 cm)
Weight:52.9 oz (1500 g)
Wingspan:53–56 in (134.6–142.2 cm)
Lifespan:8–10 years

The Ferruginous Hawk is renowned for its formidable nature as one of the most aggressive birds of prey. Within the Buteos family, they hold the impressive title of being the most prominent member.

These hawks with a white head has achieved great prominence as the most common hawk species across the expansive North American continent, showcasing their versatility and successful colonization.

Meanwhile, Ferruginous Hawks rely primarily on a diet consisting of small mammals. Mice, voles, rats, and rabbits form the staple of their meals.

Interesting Facts About Ferruginous Hawks

  • One factor contributing to their more significant population and abundance in their natural habitats is the non-migratory behavior exhibited by this particular hawk, distinguishing it from other species.
  • It is common to confuse them with bald eagles due to their impressive size, proportions, and behavior.
  • The nest of the Ferruginous Hawk is characterized by a platform meticulously crafted from sticks lined with leaves, straw, or grasses.
  • Typically, these hawks construct their nests in trees or on cliff ledges, reaching heights of 20 to 40 feet.

8. Black-faced Hawk

Black faced Hawk
Scientific Name:Leucopternis melanops
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:21 in (53.3 cm)
Weight:10.5–11.2 oz (297–317 g) 
Wingspan:25.6–30.7 in (65–78 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 15 years

The Black-faced Hawk is a bird with a white head that can be spotted gracefully gliding through the skies of South and Central America and Mexico.

These magnificent birds prefer to inhabit the edges of forests and the verdant lowland forests that flank mangroves and rivers.

Regarding their dietary habits, Black-faced Hawks exhibit a diverse palate, feasting upon various delicacies, including fish, frogs, large insects, rabbits, rats, mice, squirrels, and other small animals.

An exciting aspect of their hunting behavior is their penchant for targeting fellow avian species, particularly the Blue Jays, known for their impressive mimicry of the hawk’s calls and appearance.

Interesting Facts About Black-faced Hawks

  • When perching on high branches, these birds utilize their long tails to maintain balance, while their powerful talons can grasp prey weighing up to 24 pounds.
  • Although not inherently aggressive, the Black-faced Hawk can exhibit territorial behavior during the breeding season, particularly when defending its nest.
  • When encountering intruders within their territory, they may attempt to intimidate by swooping menacingly or emitting powerful vocalizations.
  • Distinguishing from other raptors, male Black-faced Hawks assume responsibility for nurturing the nestlings and may engage in multiple mating partnerships throughout the nesting season.

9. Gray Goshawk

Gray Goshawk
Scientific Name:Accipiter novaehollandiae
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:12–18 in (30–45 cm)
Weight:11.6–25.4 oz (330–720 g)
Wingspan:27.6–43 in (70–110 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 16 years

The Gray Goshawk is a captivating bird of prey with white stripes over its eyes. They are a found and widely encountered hawk species in Australia.

Gray Goshawks exhibit significant sexual dimorphism. The adult males feature a slate-gray upper body, while their underparts are white with fine gray barring.

In contrast, adult females and juveniles possess a striking barred pattern of gray and white, aiding their camouflage within the forest canopy. These birds with white heads have a primary diet composed of rodents.

Interesting Facts About Gray Goshawks

  • These white-headed birds can be observed across mainland Australia and Tasmania; however, encounters are infrequent as they possess an innate shyness and an inclination for secrecy.
  • The lifespan of these hawks typically spans from 10 to 15 years. Unfortunately, most juveniles seldom survive beyond their third year, primarily due to predation by foxes and feral cats.
  • Distinguishing themselves from other raptors, Gray Goshawks employ an unconventional hunting tactic by operating at dawn or dusk, taking advantage of the weakened eyesight of their prey during these periods.
  • During their hunting endeavors, they prefer patiently perching on trees, silently awaiting the proximity of their target before launching a swift and noiseless assault.

10. Long-legged Hawk

Long legged Hawk
Scientific Name:Buteo rufinus
Conservation Status:Near Threatened
Length:20–25 in (50.8–63.5 cm)
Weight:24–40 oz (680–1133 g)
Wingspan:45–50 in (114–127 cm)
Lifespan:10–20 years

Known for its elegant and fiery appearance, the Long-legged Hawk or Long-legged Buzzard is a bird with a white head, keen eyesight, and remarkable aerial agility and is a true master of hunting for food.

Their plumage, although varied, has dark brown feathers on the upper parts of its body, while the underside features a lighter brown color with streaks of white.

They gracefully inhabit various habitats, ranging from the verdant lowland forests to the awe-inspiring montane regions, ascending to altitudes of approximately 9,000 feet.

Interesting Facts About Long-legged Hawks

  • Long-legged Hawks are found across Europe, Asia, and Africa.
  • Long-legged Buzzards have expansive wingspans and robust builds.
  • Their hunting technique entails soaring gracefully through the skies while diligently surveying their surroundings from lofty perches.

11. Copper’s Hawk

Coppers Hawk
Scientific Name:Accipiter cooperii
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:14–20 in (36–51 cm)
Weight:10.7–23.8 oz (303–675 g
Wingspan:28–34 in (70–87 cm)
Lifespan:10–15 years

The Copper’s Hawk ignites the skies with its fiery plumage and agile hunting abilities, symbolizing the fierce spirit of the avian realm. This bird with a white head is primarily found in South America.

This White-headed hawk is a master of stealth and surprise. I once witnessed how this bird employed its hunting technique known as “ambushing” while observing in the wild.

With my binoculars, I saw how a Cooper’s Hawk skillfully maneuvered through the dense foliage to silently approach its prey, an unsuspecting American Robin. With a sudden swift movement, it snagged its prey with its strong talons.

Interesting Facts About Copper’s Hawks

  • Copper’s Hawks build their nests in tall tree species, including pines, oaks, Douglas firs, beeches, spruces, and more.
  • With long tails and short, rounded wings, Copper’s Hawks maneuver through dense forests with precision.
  • Copper’s Hawks stick only to one mate, which works well, especially when caring for their offspring.
  • These loyal and mighty birds have incredible speed and can zip through thick vegetation at up to 40 miles per hour.

12. Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle

Black and white Hawk Eagle
Scientific Name:Spizastur melanoleucus
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:20–24 in (51–61 cm)
Weight:27–29 oz (765–822 g)
Wingspan:43–53 in (109–135 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 30 years

The black-and-white Hawk-Eagle has black and white plumage with a small crest that looks like a black cap on its head, making this hawk-eagle unique among other hawks.

Their head, neck, and body are white as snow, their wings are brownish-black, and their tails are grayish-brown with bars. They have orange ceres and yellow eyes, and their beaks have black tips.

The diet of these hawks with a white head primarily consists of various birds that live in trees, but it also includes mammals, toads, and reptiles. These eagles search for prey while flying and dive to capture their victims.

Interesting Facts About Black-and-white Hawk-Eagles

  • The males and females of the black-and-white Hawk-Eagle have similar colors, although it is noticeable that the females are slightly bigger than the males.
  • There is a widespread myth about this bird attacking chickens and other farm birds, but this is mostly untrue. Such rumors are often spread to promote the hunting of the species for sports.
  • This eagle has been described as having a rising, piercing call or sound that usually signals its mate. The young have a shrill voice that they use to arouse their parents’ attention, usually for feeding without being noticed by predators.
  • Their droppings, often appearing as long, white strands, can be observed hanging from branches beneath their nests. These excrements have a distinct pungent odor, particularly noticeable when examined closely.

Birds with white heads are not only known for their beautiful plumage and incredible aerial displays. Their excellent hunting skills also contribute to the balance in the ecosystem.

Have you seen any of these raptors lately? Share your thoughts and what you can do to help preserve these marvelous hawks with white heads. If you have any questions on any of those on the list, feel free to ask!

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