English Name: Harris's hawk
Spanish Name: aguililla cinchada, aguililla rojinegra
View all images of Parabuteo unicinctus
This species is present in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's live collection.
Harris's Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)
Dark brown with chestnut shoulder patches, leg feathering and wing linings; tail is long and black with white at the base and tip; young are lightly streaked below with brown.
Harris's Hawks occur in mesquite and saguaro habitats, semi-arid woodlands, and scrub.
Harris's Hawks are neotropical raptors that prey upon rabbits, rodents, snakes, lizards, and birds. These hawks are social and hunt in family groups. Most social groups consist of a pair and several nonbreeding helpers who assist in feeding the nestlings and defending the nest. This cooperative behavior is also used to flush and catch prey that is hiding in cover. Large family groups are observed during autumn and winter.
Hawks & Eagles
Admired for their strength and hunting prowess, renowned for their keen eyesight, emblazoned on flags and national shields, the hawks and eagles are recognized worldwide. Most birds of prey that hunt by day belong to this family — more than 240 species, ranging in size from huge eagles to speedy little hawks no bigger than robins. Several kinds are familiar sights over the Sonoran Desert.
Red-tailed Hawk and Cooper's Hawk, widespread over North America, are common in the desert year-round. The red-tail, one of the typical soaring buteo hawks (buteos are larger hawks with broad, rounded wings and short, broad tails), is far more often seen, as it perches in the open or circles overhead, watching for rodents and other prey. Cooper's Hawk is typical of the accipiter group; it is a long-tailed, short-winged bird that seldom soars. Hunting near dense cover, relying on speed and surprise, Cooper's hawk takes many birds as well as rodents.
Seen less often here are eagles and Ospreys. The Osprey is a hawk that plunges feet-first to catch fish; in the southwest it visits the larger bodies of water, but occasionally a migrant is seen flying over the open desert. Bald Eagles are also seen mostly close to water; a few pairs nest along wilder rivers in the Sonoran Desert. Golden Eagles, by contrast, are often in very dry country, where these huge predators take animals as large as jackrabbits.
Birds of prey are generally solitary, but there are exceptions. Harris's Hawk, a sharply patterned raptor of warm climates, lives in small groups. Three or more adults often care for the young in a single nest, and two or three may hunt cooperatively, actively harrying prey animals out into the open. A classic desert sight involves three or four Harris's Hawks perched on adjacent arms of the same giant saguaro.