- Photo: Ned Harris
Harris’s Hawks will hunt cooperatively, lead by an alpha female, to flush, intercept and corner prey.
Harris’s Hawks have two recognizably different plumages: adult and juvenile. Females are noticeably larger than males. Adults are dark brown overall except for chestnut leg feathers and wing coverts, white uppertail coverts, and wide white base and terminal band on the tail. Juveniles are similar to adults, but their underparts are streaked whitish; their flight feathers are barred; and their tails have narrow dark barring and have narrower white base and terminal bands. Harris’s Hawks have a unique wing shape, appearing paddle-shaped, which aids in long range identification.
Harris’s Hawks are a very social species with groups of up to seven birds being found on breeding territories. These groups are dominated by the alpha female and consist of both related and unrelated individuals. The author has seen no indication of nesting pairs in Sabino Canyon but is aware of nesting territories within a few miles of the canyon. The author has seen Harris’s Hawks in the canyon on a few occasions and they were reported near the riparian area in December 2011.
They are mainly a perch hunter but also engage in low-altitude hunting. Groups of Harris’s Hawks will hunt cooperatively to flush, intercept and corner prey. They mainly hunt medium sized prey, particularly desert cottontail rabbits, and larger prey up to the size of black-tailed Jack Rabbits. Small rodents such as packrats and ground squirrels are also taken as are medium and small sized birds and lizards.
Even in poor light, Harris’s Hawks can be identified in flight by their unique flight characteristics. Their wings are held in an “arch” when gliding and soaring. The inner portion of the wings is held upwards and the outer portions are bowed downwards.
Breeding occurs year-round. Pairs remain together as long as mates survive. Two peak periods for nesting are early spring and late summer. Nest building or nest-repairing occurs mainly in January and August in Arizona. Nests are constructed of large sticks and built by the alpha pair. Usually there are 3-4 eggs which are incubated for 34-35 days. Young males fledge in about 45 days, females in about 48 days.