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The buteos are like the eagles, but smaller. They have broad, rounded wings, which are stubbier than those of the eagles, which help them cruise long distances over land searching for prey. Common prey items include mice and rabbits, for the buteos generally feed on mammals. A small prey item, such as a mouse, is swallowed whole. A larger item is brought to a secluded spot, held down with the feet, and pulled apart with the sharp beak. Representative buteos include the red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), the rough-legged hawk (B. lagopus), and Swainson's hawk (B. swainsoni ).

Old World buteos include:

  • Common buzzard (Buteo buteo). Resident of Eurasia, with some wintering in Africa.
  • African mountain buzzard (Buteo oreophilus). Resident of the mountains of east and southern Africa.
  • Madagascar buzzard (Buteo brachypterus). Resident of Madagascar.
  • Rough-legged buzzard (Buteo lagopus). Besides residing in North America, this bird also makes it home in northern and arctic Eurasia.
  • Long-legged buzzard (Buteo rufinus). Resident of southeastern Europe, North Africa, and Central Asia.
  • African red-tailed buzzard (Buteo auguralis). Resident of West and Central Africa.
  • Jackal buzzard (Buteo rufofuscus). Resident of Africa, south of the Sahara.

North American buteos and their status are as follows:

  • Crane hawk (Geranospiza caerulescens). Southwestern stray, normally resident of the tropical woodlands.
  • Common black-hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus). Rare and apparently declining in the United States due to disturbance and loss of habitat. Today there are possibly 250 pairs left in the United States.
  • Harris' hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus). Has disappeared from some former areas, such as the lower Colorado River Valley. Declining in parts of its range, but recently re-introduced in some areas. Has been threatened by illegal poaching for falconry.
  • Gray hawk (Buteo nitidus). It is estimated that no more than 50 pairs nest north of Mexico. It is vulnerable to loss of its lowland stream forest habitat, though it remains common and widespread in the tropics.
  • Roadside hawk (Buteo magnitostris). No information available.
  • Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus). Declining or now stabilized at low numbers. Accumulates organochlorine pesticides and PCBs, however, loss of habitat is the major threat. Although this bird is today far less numerous than historically in some areas, including the upper Midwest and parts of the Atlantic Coast, current populations are believed to be stable in most regions.
  • Broad-winged hawk (Buteo platypterus). In the early years of the twentieth century, large numbers were sometimes shot during migration. Now legally protected, and their numbers appear stable.
  • Short-tailed hawk (Buteo brachyurus). May be threatened by destruction of breeding grounds (mature cypress swamps and riparian hardwoods). Today, this bird is very uncommon in Florida (with a population probably no larger than 500), but its numbers appear stable. The population may be increasing in Mexico.
  • Swainson's hawk (Buteo swainsoni). Current status is unclear. Many have been shot while perched along roads. But expanding cultivation has increased breeding opportunities, especially in the Great Plains. The population has declined seriously in California, for reasons that are not well understood.
  • White-tailed hawk (Buteo albicaudatus). Marked decline from 1930s to 1960s largely due to loss of habitat. Significant eggshell thinning has been observed since 1947. Its decline in Texas from the 1950s to the 1970s has been attributed to the use of pesticides, but the population in that state now appears to be stable. Numbers may be declining in Mexico due to overgrazing of its habitat.
  • Zone-tailed hawk (Buteo albonotatus). This bird has disappeared from some of its former nesting areas. Loss of nesting sites such as tall cottonwoods near streams may have contributed to its decline.
  • Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). Greatly reduced in the east by early bounties. Continued decline due to human persecution and loss of habitat. Some egg thinning. The population has increased in some areas since the 1960s. Today the population is stable or increasing.
  • Ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis). Currently rare in many parts of its range. Many have been shot while perched along roadsides. Today this bird is a threatened species. The current population may be less than 4,000. The decline in population is due to hunting and to loss of habitat.
  • Rough-legged hawk (Buteo lagopus). Inadvertently poisoned by bait intended for mammals. Often shot when feeding off road kills in the winter. Local populations in the Arctic rise and fall with the rodent population there. The overall numbers appear healthy.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Habit memory: to HeterodontHawks - Buteos, Accipiters, Kites, Harriers, Characteristics And Behavior, Hawks And Humans