Ornate Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus ornatus)

The Ornate Hawk-Eagle is one of the most sought-after birds in Costa Rica due to its elegant appearance and striking name. Juveniles are dull brown with white head and belly, while adults have a barred belly, black crest and chestnut sides of the face and throat. Its most flamboyant feature is the big crest that adults have. It also have feathered legs. Its preferred environment is the forest, where it catches a variety of prey, including big arboreal birds like the Great Currasow. It is most usually seen circling high on the sky, where it is difficult to identify in silhouette, however their vocalizations give them away easily.

Harris’s Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)

The Harris’s Hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey that ranges from south United States all the way to Brazil and Argentina. Adults are very dark with chestnut on the shoulders, wings and legs, as well as some patches on the head. The juveniles are lighter in coloration overall, with wings underside being buff to white and having dark streaking. Their eyes are very big and situated all the way forward, allowing them for good tridimensional vision and distance judging, essential for spotting and catching prey. Due to their intelligence, they are sought after for falconry, particularly in some parts of Europe. In their natural environment, they are known for cooperating and hunting in groups up to seven individuals, with the mature female being the highest ranked individual.

Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus)

The Common Black Hawk is one of Costa Rica’s predatory birds. With an almost entirely black body (only interrupted by a white tail band), it can look similar to a Black Vulture, however the yellow bill with hooked black tip sets it apart. The common name in Spanish is derived from their diet, which is mainly crabs and crustaceans. This means it is more common to find them at beaches or near a river’s mouth, where crabs are found in great numbers. We watched this hawk as it grabbed small crabs from the beach, then flying away and landing in nearby palm trees to eat them. While soaring, they resemble a Black Vulture, except for the white tail band, so it is better to look closely when a group of Black Vultures are flying overhead.