British Wildlife Wiki
Harris hawk

Harris Hawk - Oliver Creamer

The Harris Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus) formerly known as the Bay-winged Hawk or Dusky Hawk, is a medium-large bird of prey. It is a popular species in falconry and these records almost certainly all refer to escapes from captivity. The Harris Hawk is famous for its remarkable behavior of hunting cooperatively in "packs", consisting of family groups. (Most raptors are solitary hunters.)

Diet and Habitat[]


The bird lives in sparse woodland and marshes (with some trees). Harris's Hawks are permanent residents and do not migrate.


The diet consists of small creatures including birds, lizards, mammals, and large insects. Because it will hunt in groups, the Harris's Hawk can also take down larger prey, such as jackrabbits.

Nesting and brooding[]

They nest in small trees, shrubby growth, or cacti. The nests are often compact, made of sticks, plant roots, and stems, and are often lined with leaves, moss, bark and plant roots. They are built mainly by the female. There are usually two to four white to blueish white eggs sometimes with a speckling of pale brown or gray. The nestlings start out light buff, but in five to six days turn a rich brown.

Very often, there will be three hawks attending one nest: two males and one female. Whether or not this is polyandry is debated, as it may be confused with backstanding (one bird standing on another's back). The female does most of the incubation. The eggs hatch in 31 to 36 days. The young begin to explore outside the nest at 38 days, and fledge, or start to fly, at 45 to 50 days. The female sometimes breeds two or three times in a year. Young may stay with their parents for up to three years, helping to raise later broods.

Status in Britain[]

The Harris Hawk is not native to Britain but can often be seen due to their popularity in Falconry. Many are bred here to be sold to Falconry displays/hobbyists. It is when they are used for this purpose that you are most likely to see them. Harris Hawks can also be used as a form of pest control and can be seen flying over buildings/fields where they brought in to control the number of a certain pest species.