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Geranoaetus polyosoma

Variable Hawk

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

Authors:

Buteo polyosoma

Machuaca, Chile; © Pablo Caceres Contreras

The Variable Hawk is well-named, exhibiting perhaps the greatest variety of plumage patterns of any species of hawk. It occurs throughout the Andes and in the temperate regions of southern South America. Much debate has centered on the taxonomy of this species, and it frequently has been divided into two species - the widespread, smaller, and more slender "Red-backed" Hawk (Buteo polyosoma) and the larger, heavier "Puna" Hawk (Buteo poecilochrous) of the Andes. The situation is complicated by extensive, parallel plumage variation in the two groups as well as variation in size and structure with latitude and elevation, and controversy continues to swirl around the question of whether poecilochrous in fact is distinguishable from other Variable Hawks. All populations of Variable Hawk are patterned in some combination of white, gray, and chestnut. Pale morphs are whitish below and gray above; in this morph, females also have a red back. Dark morphs are darker gray overall, and females have chestnut extending onto the chest. Variable Hawks occupy open habitats at all elevations, where they prey on mammals and other small animals spotted from the air. They build large stick nests on any elevated structure available, and sometimes breed cooperatively.

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Recommended Citation

. 2010. Variable Hawk (Geranoaetus polyosoma), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/portal/species/overview?p_p_spp=128116

This map is based on the maps available from the NatureServe InfoNatura website. The data for these maps are provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE.

  • Migration/Movement:Austral Migrant
  • Primary Habitat:Arid montane scrub
  • Foraging Strata:Terrestrial
  • Foraging Behavior:---
  • Diet:Mammals
  • Sociality:
  • Mating System:
  • Nest Form:
  • Clutch: -
  • IUCN Status:Least Concern