The black-and-white hawk-eagle is a relatively unknown type of diurnal bird of prey. It is some 56 to 61 cm long overall, its wingspan is up to 117 cm and it weighs about 840 g. This hawk-eagle is white, except on the outside of its wings, its back, the crest on the top of its head and the area around its eyes, which are black. Its tail is grey, barred black (with 4 black stripes). Like all birds of prey, it has a strong, curved beak for tearing flesh from its prey or the carrion it sometimes feeds on. Its beak is orange (like its legs), with a black tip.
Its legs are strong and are armed with prominent talons. These birds also have an excellent sense of sight.
The black-and-white hawk-eagle is very similar to the grey-headed kite (Leptodon cayanensis), although it is a lot larger and can be distinguished by the black “mask” around its eyes, which is said to improve its sight by preventing sun reflection.
Black-and-white hawk-eagles are found throughout a large part of tropical America, from southern Mexico to northern Argentina.
Regarding its habitat, it prefers forests – specifically the edges, close to open areas. They spend a great deal of time overflying them at altitudes of 1,000 to 1,700 metres, searching for prey. When they spot one with their sharp eyes, they dive down to catch it. Its favourite preys are medium-sized birds, like quails, partridges or toucans, as well as mammals smaller than foxes. They also feed on amphibians and reptiles.
Little is known about its courtship and mating, as it is a rare species. Black-and-white hawk-eagles build their nests with twigs, usually on very high treetops, with a view to their hunting ground. Females are a little larger than males, and lay an egg every 2 or 3 years, which they incubate for 40 to 48 days. The male is responsible for feeding the female during the incubation period. After hatching, chicks depend on their parents for food for several months.
|COMMON NAME||CONSERVATION STATUS|
|Black-and-white hawk-eagle||Least concern (LC)|
|Spizaetus melanoleucus||56 – 61 cm (22 – 24 in)|
|Accipitridae||850 g (30 Oz)|
|Accipitriformes||Up to 42 years in captivity|
|Aves||40 – 48 days of incubation|
|< 50,000 individuals||Medium-sized birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles|
|Forests near open areas||From Mexico to northern Argentina|