Ornate Hawk-Eagle – Spizaetus Ornatus
The ornate hawk-eagle (Spizaetus ornatus) is a bird of prey from the tropical Americas. Like all eagles, it is in the family Accipitridae. This species is notable for its vivid colors, which differ markedly between adult and immature birds.
This is a medium-large raptor, at about 56.0–68.5 cm (22–27 in) in length, 117–142 cm (46–56 in) across the wings, and weighing about 960-1,650 g (2.1-3.6 lbs). It has a prominent pointed crest, raised when excited, a black bill, broad wings, and a long, rounded tail.
The typical adult has blackish upper parts and crown, bright chestnut sides to the neck and breast, and a black-edged white throat and central breast. The rest of the under parts and feathered legs are white barred with black, and the tail has broad black bars. The under wings are white, with barred flight feathers; due to the heavy pattern, birds usually look rather dark in flight.
Sexes are similar, but young birds have a white head and under parts, with a grey crest, brown upper parts, and barring only on the flanks and legs.
The call is a high-pitched whee-oo whee-oo.
This bird is found in humid tropical forests from southern Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula, to Trinidad and Tobago, south to Peru and Argentina. They are able to tolerate some degree of habitat fragmentation, breeding successfully near cities and in forest fragments as small as 200 ha (490 acres). Despite a slender build and a body weight no greater than a large Buteohawk, the ornate hawk-eagle is a notably powerful predator which, like other booted eagles, can take prey up to five times its own weight. Birds are the principal prey. Prey items have ranged in size from 180 g (6.4 oz) to 8 kg (18 lbs) when taken. Prey species have included little blue herons, curassows, toucans, wood quail, pigeons, macaws, parrots, cotingas, chickens, and even a black vulture. Mammals are also significant prey, with agoutis, squirrels, rats, procyonids, and monkeys often taken. Reptiles are also occasionally hunted.
The male’s courtship display is a dive with folded wings, and a climb, sometimes completing a loop. The pair touch talons in flight as the female rolls on her back. This species builds a large stick nest in a high tree (e.g. Ceiba), many meters above ground. The nest is around 1 m (3 ft) in diameter. Most breeding activity occurs around April or May, differing slightly according to location; in Guatemala, breeding activity was observed from March to June, in Costa Rica in April and May, in Panama from November/December to May, and in the lowlands of Ecuador in March and April.
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