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Ornate Hawk-eagle
Adult, Federal University of Mato Grosso zoo, Cuiabá (Brazil)
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Subclass: Neornithes
Infraclass: Neognathae
Superorder: Neoaves
Order: Falconiformes (or Accipitriformes, q.v.)
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Spizaetus
Species: S. ornatus
Binomial name
Spizaetus ornatus
(Daudin, 1800)

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 58-64 cm (23-25 in) in length, and weighing about 1200 g (42 oz). It has a prominent pointed crest, raised when excited, a black bill, broad wings and a long rounded tail.

The typical adult has blackish upperparts and crown, bright chestnut sides to the neck and breast and a black-edged white throat and central breast. The rest of the underparts and feathered legs are white barred with black, and the tail has broad black bars. The underwings 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 underparts, with a grey crest, brown upperparts, 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 hectares (490 acres)[1]. Ornate Hawk-eagles eat mainly birds, with some small mammals, and reptiles.

The male's courtship display is a dive with folded wings, and a climb, sometimes completing a loop. The pair will 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 meter (3 ft) in diameter. Most breeding activity occurs around April/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.[2]

Though locally rare, it is not considered a threatened species by the IUCN due to its wide range.[3]


  1. ^ Zorzin et al. (2006)
  2. ^ Greeney et al. (2004)
  3. ^ BLI (2004), Zorzin et al. (2006)


  • BirdLife International (BLI) (2004). Spizaetus ornatus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  • ffrench, Richard; O'Neill, John Patton & Eckelberry, Don R. (1991): A guide to the birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2nd edition). Comstock Publishing, Ithaca, N.Y.. ISBN 0-8014-9792-2
  • Greeney, Harold F.; Gelis, Rudolphe A. & White, Richard (2004): Notes on breeding birds from an Ecuadorian lowland forest. Bull. B.O.C. 124(1): 28-37. PDF fulltext
  • Hilty, Steven L. (2003): Birds of Venezuela. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-6418-5
  • Zorzin, Giancarlo; Carvalho, Carlos Eduardo Alencar; de Carvalho Filho, Eduardo Pio Mendes & Canuto, Marcus (2006): Novos registros de Falconiformes raros e ameaçados para o estado de Minas Gerais [New records of rare and threatened Falconiformes for the state of Minas Gerais]. Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia 14(4): 417-421 [Portuguese with English abstract]. PDF fulltext

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