Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus)


French: Buse noire German: Krabbenbussard Spanish: Busardo negro

Falco anthracinus

W. Deppe

, 1830,

Veracruz, Mexico


Taxonomy unstable, with variety of recent treatments: race subtilis (with rhizophorae and bangsi) commonly treated as a separate species, but recent review#R could find no clear-cut phenotypical differences; B. gundlachii usually included in present species, but differs in its overall browner plumage with more, and more conspicuous, pale feather tips (2); much larger white underwing patch (2); presence of ill-defined malar stripe (2); lack of any mottled rufous panel in wing (ns[2]); alarm call consisting of 3–4 notes vs 9–24 in nominate anthracinus#R (allow 2); and smaller size (fide published measurements#R) (at least 1); form utilensis sometimes synonymized with subtilis; populations of St Vincent (Lesser Antilles) and SW USA sometimes awarded separate races, respectively cancrivorus and micronyx. Five subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • B. a. anthracinus (W. Deppe, 1830) – Common Black Hawk – SW & S USA (mainly in Arizona and New Mexico) through Mexico and Atlantic Central America to Panama and N Colombia (penetrating inland to Huila), and E along Caribbean coast to NW Guyana, Trinidad and St Vincent (Lesser Antilles).
  • B. a. utilensis Twomey, 1956 – Cancún I and Cozumel I, off Yucatán; Utila I and Guanaja I, in Gulf of Honduras; and perhaps other adjacent islands.
  • B. a. rhizophorae Monroe, 1963 – Pacific coast from extreme SW Mexico (Chiapas) through El Salvador and Honduras to Nicaragua.
  • B. a. bangsi (Swann, 1922) – Pacific coast of Costa Rica and Panama, including Pearl Is.
  • B. a. subtilis (Thayer & Bangs, 1905) – Mangrove Black Hawk – Pacific coast of Colombia (and offshore islands), SW Ecuador and adjacent extreme N Peru (Tumbes); possibly in extreme NW Ecuador (San Lorenzo area of N Esmeraldas#R).
  • Descriptive notes

    50–56 cm; male averages c. 793 g, female 1200 g; wingspan 106–128 cm. Blackish to deep fuscous brown overall, depending on race and plumage wear; very short tail... read more


    A series of 10–15 whistles, rather shrill in quality, becoming higher-pitched and louder, and... read more


    Tropical and lower subtropical zones, usually near water; dense, mature riparian wooded areas... read more

    Food and feeding

    Reptiles and fish usually important, but diet can be highly variable among pairs in a population and from year to year, as dictated by... read more


    Nests from Apr–Jul (May) in SW USA, Jan–May in Panama, Mar–Jul on Trinidad; female in breeding condition in Jan in... read more


    Birds in SW USA at N edge of range leave breeding area from Aug–Sept and return in Mar and... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Fairly common in some areas, e.g. Honduras in 1960s, and Caribbean coast of Colombia, although no estimates of numbers or... read more

    Recommended citation

    Bierregaard, R.O., Jr, Christie, D.A., Boesman, P., Kirwan, G.M. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 24 February 2020).