Galapagos Hawks

galapagos hawks

Galapagos Hawks are very approachable birds and are endemic to these beautiful Islands.

They are very noisy birds and make almost screaming sounds when air-born.


Their scientific name of these birds is Buteo galapagoensis.

They are known for its fearlessness towards humans and authority over the Islands as the only original predator.

This raptor has inhabited the Galapagos Islands for over 300,000 years. Hawks in Galapagos are active predators feeding on small invertebrates such as small lizards, snakes and rodents.

Galapagos Hawks can grow up to 55 centimeters long with a wingspan of 120 centimeters.

These birds are the most important endemic scavengers in Galapagos, and therefore they play an important role at the top of the food chain.

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With their broad wings and broad tails, Galapagos Hawks are well adapted for soaring the skies around the Galapagos Islands.

Hawks feed mainly on insects such as locusts and giant centipedes, but it is not uncommon for them to take also young marine and land iguanas, and sea turtle and tortoise hatchlings.

This predator has also been spotted near nesting areas of Fork-tailed Gulls, where it steals eggs as well as young. Even extremely rancid carrion is picked apart by their sharp, forceful beaks.

Their feet and talons are also strong like those of the closely related Red-backed Buzzard and White-tailed Hawk.

Galapagos hawks hunt in groups of two or three, soaring at a height of 50 to 200 meters in the sky. When one of the birds spots prey or a rotting carcass, they signal to the other members.

The dominant hawk of the group feeds from the prey until it is satisfied, as the other hawks in the family group submissively wait their turn to feed.

It prefers to perch on a lava outcrop or high branch when hunting, yet it also spends some of its time on the ground.

Galapagos Hawk Description

The adult hawk in Galapagos is generally a sooty brownish black color, the crown being slightly blacker than the back.

Their feathers of the mantle are partially edged with paler brown, gray, or buff, with their white bases showing to some extent. Their tail coverts are also barred with white.

The tail itself is silvery gray above, with about ten narrow black bars, below it is quite pale. The wing feathers are paler on inner webs, barred with white.

Under-wing coverts are black, contrasting with the pale bases of the wing quills. The eyes are brown, the beak grayish black, paler at its base which is known as the "cere", legs and feet are yellow. The male hawk is smaller than the female hawk.

Hawks Reproduction

Because the seasons of the Galapagos Islands are unchanging due to the close proximity of the equator, there is no regular mating season.

Breeding may occur at any time of year. This species tends to form long-term groups consisting of one female and several males.

The female mates with all of the males, and they all assist in chick rearing. This type of social structure is known as cooperative polyandry, polyandry meaning "many males".

Nests are constructed in low branches, on an outcrop of larva or on the ground from sticks, and are lined with grass, bark, leaves and other available soft materials.

They are used repeatedly for several years and become increasingly large, often up to 1.2 meters in diameter and three meters in height.

During courtship, pairs often rise to great heights and descend in criss-crossing flights. Mating occurs repeatedly during the day.

Although up to two greenish-white eggs are laid, just one chick is usually reared. The incubation period lasts 37 to 38 days and the young are fully fledged at 50 to 60 days of age.

Juvenile hawks will not enter the territorial breeding areas until they reach the age of three, becoming sexually mature. Although these birds are generally fearless, they will abandon their nest if it has been tampered with by humans.

Although the exact number of Galapagos hawks is unknown, there are believed to be only around 150 mating pairs in existence today.

This statistic has improved slightly from past years, but it is far from the abundance they were found in the Galapagos Islands when they were discovered.

Galapagos hawks are protected from international trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). It has been protected by Ecuadorian law since 1959.

More About Galapagos

Galapagos Islands Birds

Galapagos Classification

Galapagos Recipes

Economic Galapagos Tours

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