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Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)

One of my best experiences as a new birdwatcher was finding the nest of a broad winged Hawk. I was very excited about seeing this new species: seeing two adults and three young at one time. That fall, I went to Mt. Tom near Springfield, Massachusetts, and was amazed when I saw two thousand Broad-winged Hawks in one afternoon. From that one time on, I have found fall hawk-watching a must activity.

Found in the eastern half of the country the Broad-winged Hawk is essentially migratory and not a permanent resident. The birds nest throughout the eastern half of the U.S. and central Canada, and winter in South and Central America. On route to and from its nesting areas, the Broad-winged Hawk Migrates in large numbers, thus offering the birdwatcher an opportunity to see literally thousands of these birds at one time. Large concentrations of Broad-winged Hawks have made places such as Hawk Mt. In Pennsylvania and the Texas coast, famous. In September, the strong northwest winds start the birds on their migratory journey across the country. They migrate during the day and use thermal air currents to lift them high. Frequently, flocks or kettles are formed in the thermals. Sometimes these kettles contain hundreds of birds. Geographic features such as mountain ridges and bodies of water cause the migrating birds to concentrate along these features thus creating spectacular hawk flights, much to the enjoyment of birders.

Other than during migration, the Broad-wing is a rather quiet, secretive bird that lives in extensive forests. Courtship takes place soon after adults return to their nesting areas. As with other hawks, there is a courtship flight in which the male and female hawks dive and circle at each other. Nests are made of sticks and twigs and are not large. The female lies from two to four eggs, which are incubated for about 21 days. Both parents participate in hunting food for the young hawks after they hatch.

The food of the Broad-winged Hawk consists mainly of small mammals such as mice and moles. Other items such as small birds and insects are also secured. After raising the young, the birds begin preparation for their fall flight to their wintering grounds. As they do, they provide us with an exciting birding adventure.

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