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Spizaetus tyrannus

Black Hawk-Eagle

  • Order: Accipitriformes
  • Family: Accipitridae
  • Polytypic 2 Subspecies

Authors: Quintero, Ignacio, and Andrés Jácome

Life History


The Black Hawk-Eagle preys on birds and mammals up to the size of a large toucan or small cracid (Hilty 2003). Within mammals, it preys upon arboreal mammals (e.g., squirrels, small monkeys and bats) and nocturnal marsupials (Bierregaard 1994). S. tyrannus also preys on reptiles such as iguanas and snakes. Percentage of diet can change through different places, for example, whereas in Mexico, 82% of prey where birds and the rest being small-medium mammals, in Belize and Guatemala, mammals where the main diet (in Guatemala 96% of prey were mammals of which 31% were bats) (Bierregaard 1994).


S. tyrannus makes regular soars of ca 10 min at great heights with frequent calls and slow flapping display during midmorning or midday before returning to the forest (Hilty 2003). Hunting relies on perch-hunting: moving from perch to perch, then flying from the perch with great speed in order to ambush its prey (Hilty 2003). Occasionally perches in low branches.


Soaring has a function of territorial behavior, especially in breeding grounds (Thiollay 1989).

Sexual Behavior

Courtship behaviour consists of display flights with contact and roll-overs (Bierregaard 1994).  

Social and interspecific behavior

Usually alone but occasionally seen in pairs (Márquez-Reyes and Vanegas 2008).


 No information.


Little information. In Panama, chicks were recorded in February, young with feathers in July and fledglings in August. Young have a large dependency period; consequently, it seems that parents nest only every third year (in Panamá and Yucatan Peninsula) (Rangel-Salazar and Enriquez-Rocha 1993).

One nest was 110 cm wide, and located 17 m above the ground. Other nests have been spotted in tall trees and palms (e.g., Roystonea) (Bierregaard 1994). In the Yucatán Peninsula, a nest was found in a 23 m tall mahogany tree (Swietenia microphylla) at 17 m above the ground. The diameter of this nest was 70 cm; nest materials included zapote (Minilkara zapote), txalam (Lysiloma latisiliquia) and a vine (Styzophyllum riparium) (Rangel-Salazar and Enriquez-Rocha 1993).

Black Hawk-Eagle nestlings stand up in the first 5 weeks and flap in place in the 4th week; sometimes, at the 4th week, chicks move from the nest to adjacent branches (Whitacre et al. 2002). At the 8th week, chicks were able to feed themselves (Whitacre et al. 2002).

Populations and Demography

The Black Hawk-Eagle is rare but conspicuous, mostly due to its loud calls when soaring above the forest canopy (Hilty and Brown 1986). Its abundance is low, catalogued as Rare, meaning that it’s observed less than 25% of the times in a suitable environment (Naka et al. 2002).

Recommended Citation

Quintero, Ignacio, and Andrés Jácome. 2011. Black Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus tyrannus), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: