The Black-collared Hawk is a fairly large bland looking hawk, being mostly brown, white, and black. This species stands roughly 53 cm (about 20 in) tall and has a wingspan of 143 cm (about 51 in). As named, this hawk has a distinct black collar around its neck that becomes very prevelant once an adult. The juvenile has the collar, but it is less developed and very rugged. Both the adults and juveniles have mostly white heads with dark streaking and speckling down the backside of their heads and necks. The adults have light brown, or tanish, colored bodies below the black collar, with very slight streaking around their shoulders and down their back. The female adults tend to be slightly lighter colored than the males, appearing more of a buffy color. The juveniles are very streaked down their bellies, with clear, buff colored breasts. They do not have the same tan color as the adults, but rather a dark gray-brown that covers their body, except for the buff colored streaks. Both the adults and juveniles have dark colored bills and deep brown eyes. When flying, the adults have a very distinct black strip across the tips of their primary flight feathers, except for the first 7 primaries (P1 - P7) are completly black on the bottom. The juveniles are very speckeld when flying and have no distinct features on their underside other than heavy streaking.
The adult Black-collared Hawks have very few similar species due to the distinct and unique collar and coloring. The only species of hawk that regularly occurs in the same region as the Black-collared Hawk that looks similar is the Savannah Hawk. The adult Savannah Hawks have the same buff coloring, but lack the black collar, heavy black underwings, and the Savannah Hawks are very streaky compared to the Black-collared. Though, the juvenile Black-collared Hawk is less distinct and is very similar to the Savannah Hawk juvenile, Bay-winged Hawk juvenile, and the Crowned Solitrary-eagle juvenile. All of these juveniles are lightly colored, heavily streaked hawks, and thus have several similar species.
Adults: The adult Black-collared Hawks look very similar other than size and slight differences in hues. The adults heads are almost compltely white other than some light brown streaking on their crown and nape. Their beaks are dark gray, nearly black and their eyes are a deep brown. Their white head fades into a buff color on their back, but on the front the white head and buff breasts are separated by a black collar (hence the name). Their bodies have little to no streaking other than oh their shoulders and wings. The wings are nearly all the same buff color as the body, except for the first seven primary flight feathers (P1 - P7) being entirely black and the tips of the other flight feathers being black. The tail has a black band at the end, separating the buff feathers from their white tips. The legs are whiteish gray, some oberservers have said they have a blue tint to them.
Juveniles: The juvenile Black-collared Hawk is very streaky and light colored compared to their elders. Their heads have significantly more streaking than the adults, yet have the same eyes and bill. Their black collar is distinct, but more rugged, scattered, and streaky. Their breasts lack streaking and have a buff color similar to the adults. Their belly, wings, back, and tail are all heavily streaked with white and dark brown. Same colored legs, but completely lacks the black underwings and black tail-band.
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The only bare part on the Black-collared Hawk is their white-gray legs.
Adults stand roughly 52 - 58 cm (21 - 23 in) tall and have a wingspan of 130 - 143 cm (51 - 56 in) with tail feathers of length 16 - 21 cm (7 in). The juveniles are slightly smaller, standing 47 - 52 cm (19 - 21 in) tall and have wingspan of 115 - 130 cm (45 - 51 in) with similar length tail feathers.