Ornate Hawk-eagle

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Common Name: Ornate Hawk-eagle
Scientific Name: Spizaetus ornatus

Size: 22-27 inches (56-68.5 cm); Wingspan: 46-56 inches (117-142cm)

Habitat: Central and South America; the nominate species occurs from east Colombia east through Venezuela. It is species's range extends south through east Ecuador, north-east Peru and north-east Bolivia. It reaches south Brazil, where it has declined in areas of heavy deforestation, and further south to Paraguay. In north Argentina it is also known to have declined. The subspecies, S. o. vicarious, occurs from south-east Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama to northern South America. It is rare in west Colombia, and is also known to reach west Ecuador.

The preferred habitat is humid rainforests below 1800 meters.

Status: Near Threatened. Global population: <50,000 adult individuals with a decreasing population trend. This species is suspected to lose 40% of suitable habitat within its distribution over three generations (56 years) based on a model of Amazonian deforestation. Although the species is susceptible to hunting, it can survive in fragmented landscapes. Based on these projections, scientists expect a decline by 25-29% over three generations.

Diet: Mammals, birds and reptiles. Prey species have included little blue herons, curassows, toucans, wood quail, pigeons, macaws, parrots, cotingas, chickens, and even a black vulture. Mammals are also significant prey, with agoutis, squirrels, rats, procyonids, and monkeys often taken. Reptiles are also occasionally hunted.

They are often seen in early morning as they perch on emergent snags or along forest edges. In the late morning they are most often detected as they circle low over the canopy, often calling tirelessly. Their most common call is a loud, ringing whistle with an down-slurred note at the beginning followed by piping "whep" notes : "whit, wheEEeuuu, whep whep whep whep"

Nesting: Females are larger than males. Adults have blackish upper parts and crown, bright chestnut sides to the neck and breast, and a black-edged white throat and central breast. The rest of the under parts and feathered legs are white barred with black, and the tail has broad black bars. The under wings are white, with barred flight feathers; due to the heavy pattern, birds usually look rather dark in flight.

Young birds have a white head and under parts, with a grey crest, brown upper parts, and barring only on the flanks and legs.

The male's courtship display is a dive with folded wings, and a climb, sometimes completing a loop. The pair touch talons in flight as the female rolls on her back. This species builds a large stick nest in a high tree (e.g. Ceiba), many meters above ground. The nest is around 1 m (3 ft.) in diameter. Most breeding activity occurs around April or May, differing slightly according to location; in Guatemala, breeding activity was observed from March to June, in Costa Rica in April and May, in Panama from November/December to May, and in the lowlands of Ecuador in March and April.

Cool Facts: While this eagle is no larger than a hawk, it can take a prey up to 5 times its own weight.

The crest can be erected or laid back on the head, and sometimes the species is misidentified by those who expect Ornate Hawk-Eagle to be prominently crested at all times.

There are two subspecies:

  • S. o. vacarius is the more northerly of the two, occurring throughout the Middle American portions of the range and west of the Andes from western Colombia to southwestern Ecuador (formerly northwestern Peru).
  • S. o. ornatus, the nominate species, is found in the remainder of the range, from eastern Colombia, Venezuela, and Trinidad, south to Bolivia, northern Argentina, and southern Brazil. The nominate form has brighter, richer rufous on the head and neck than S. o. vacarius.

This 3D model is found in Songbird ReMix Birds of Prey Volume IV: Eagles of the World

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