Distribution in the Americas
Ridgway’s Hawk formerly was found in a variety of habitats across the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola and its satellite islands (Wiley and Wiley 1981). It is now believed to be extirpated from Haiti, and the last known wild population is restricted to Los Haitises National Park in northeastern Dominican Republic. Los Haitises encompasses approximately 600 km2 south of Samaná Bay (Gesto 2016). For a description of Los Haitises see Thorstrom et al. (2005). The Peregrine Fund has used translocation to create a second, experimental population in Punta Cana, southeastern Dominican Republic.
Distribution outside the Americas
Ridgway's Hawk is endemic to the island of Hispaniola.
Habitat preferences for Ridgway’s Hawk remain a bit of an enigma. Currently the last wild population occupies a region of Los Haitises National Park that historically was covered in moist rain forest, and loss of moist forests is listed as a serious threat to the species’ survival (Thorstrom et al. 2007, Woolaver 2011). Historical records place Ridgway’s Hawk, however, in nearly every terrestrial habitat on Hispaniola from sea level to 2000 m. Wiley and Wiley (1981) reviewed historical records and listed 10 habitats reported for the species. Of these, three can be classified as closed canopy wet forest (karst forest, rain forest, and riparian forest); five can be classified as open situations or disturbed habitats (lowland dry forest, lowland scrub, pasture and agricultural areas, cut-over forests, and marsh); and two habitat types are intermediate in stature and canopy closure (hardwood forests and pine forests). Bond (1971) described the habitat of Ridgway’s Hawk as woods and open country. The observations of Thorstrom et al. (2007) of 74 pairs in Los Haitises National Park showed a majority of pairs nesting in agricultural plots, degraded forest, and forest edges. The experimental population founded in Punta Cana survives in an urban mosaic of housing developments, golf courses, and roadways (T. Hayes and R. Thorstrom, unpublished data). This evidence, combined with the close taxonomic relationship with the habitat generalist Red-shouldered Hawk, indicates a high degree of flexibility in habitat selection for Ridgway's Hawk (Thorstrom et al. 2007).
Ridgway’s Hawk was considered common and widespread at the turn of the 20th century (Wiley and Wiley 1981). It no longer occupies most of its former distribution (see Distribution in the Americas), and currently is considered to be Critically Endangered (IUCN 2015).