large hawk with white chest, The Ferruginous Hawk’s white chest plumage camouflages this large prairie raptor as it hunts from the sky. In this article, we will highlight eight hawk species with predominantly white chests and bellies. You’ll learn some interesting facts about their appearance, habitat, distribution, diet, and behavior. We’ll also answer ten frequently asked questions about these awe-inspiring birds of prey.
What is a white hawk called
There are a few different hawk species that have predominantly white plumage and thus white hawk in their common names. The White-tailed Hawk, found in Central and South America, is named for its striking snowy white tail. The White Hawk lives in rainforests ranging from Mexico to Argentina and gets its name from a distinctive white chest contrasting with black wings.
The White-tailed Kite is a small raptor with white and pale gray plumage found hovering over grasslands and marshlands in western North America. The Ferruginous Hawk, the largest hawk species in North America, has a white color morph where the chest and belly feathers are nearly pure white.
So while most hawks have brown, reddish or gray feathers, those with white feathers below often incorporate “white” into their common names, like the White Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, and White-tailed Kite.
Is it rare to see a white hawk
Seeing a hawk with all-white plumage is quite rare, but spotting a hawk with prominent white feathers is more common. Several species like the Ferruginous Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, and White Hawk have color morphs where the underside is snowy white contrasting with darker wings and back. Even though these pale color variants are not as numerous as those with more typical brown and gray hues, they do show up with some regularity.
The contrast makes these white hawks very visually striking, so even though they are not abundant, keen birdwatchers may be lucky enough to spot one soaring overhead during migrations or nesting seasons. Getting a glimpse of a graceful raptor with snow-white feathers gliding across an azure sky is a special delight for avid birders. So while seeing one is uncommon and depends on luck, their rarity and beauty makes the sighting all the more memorable.
hawk with white head and chest
While most hawks have dark brown or gray plumage on their heads, a few species exhibit white feathers on both their chests and heads. The Ferruginous Hawk’s white color morph has a predominantly white underside along with white around the face and throat.
The Osprey also has conspicuous white plumage covering its cheeks, forehead, chin and extending down over a clean white chest, in sharp contrast to its wings and back which are rich brown. Other accipiters like the Northern Goshawk may occasionally display extensive white markings on the head matching white bars across their underparts. And the striking Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle is named for its bold black-and-white pattern which includes a prominently white feathered head.
For hawk enthusiasts, spotting any raptor overhead with a sharp delineation between dark upperparts and white coverage of the head and chest is a particularly noteworthy find. The contrast helps these hawks stand out visually against blue skies or green treetops as they scan for prey below.
large bird with white chest
Several of the world’s largest bird of prey species exhibit brilliant white feathers on their chests and undersides. The enormous Steller’s Sea Eagle, one of the biggest eagles on Earth with an 8-foot wingspan, has a distinctive white chest and belly contrasting with its jet black wings and back. The White-tailed Eagle is another colossal raptor adorned with snowy white plumage across its entire underside.
The huge Harpy Eagle of South America rainforests also has a grayish white chest patch. And the Ferruginous Hawk, the largest breeding hawk in North America, occurs in a pale variant where its sizeable chest and body are ivory white.
These big formidable birds take advantage of their light underside plumage to camouflage themselves against the sky as they soar high looking for unsuspecting prey on the ground. So dragging your eyes skyward may reveal giant wings bearing proudly forward to expose a gleaming white chest.
8 Hawks with White Chest
Hawks are predatory birds known for their sharp talons, curved beaks, and excellent eyesight. While many hawk species have dark brown or gray plumage, some have distinctive white feathers on their chests and bellies. These graceful raptors stand out against green forests or blue skies as they soar high above searching for prey.
Seeing a hawk with a white chest in the wild is an exhilarating experience for any bird enthusiast. The contrast makes them easy to identify even from a distance. Their rarity adds to the thrill of spotting them overhead or perched on a branch.
The White-tailed Hawk (Geranoaetus albicaudatus)
The White-tailed Hawk lives in semi-open habitats in Central and South America. Both its chest and tail are snowy white. With its long broad wings and short tail, it is well equipped for soaring.
- Wingspan reaches up to 49 inches
- Dark gray back contrasts with white chest and tail
- Yellow legs/ceres
- Feeds mainly on mammals like rabbits
- Nests high up on cliff ledges or in tall trees
The White Hawk (Pseudastur albicollis)
The White Hawk inhabits tropical lowland rainforests from Mexico to Argentina. True to its name, its white chest distinguishes it from other rainforest raptors.
- Medium-sized with crow-like shape
- Crimson red eyes
- Hunts birds, reptiles and mammals amidst dense vegetation
- Lays 1-2 eggs in platform stick nest in forest tree
- Population threatened by deforestation
The Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo Regalis)
The Ferruginous Hawk is the largest hawk species in North America. Its light morph is snowy white below with reddish-brown upperparts.
- One of the largest hawks with a 56” wingspan
- Light morph is stark white below with rusty back and wings
- Dark morph is dark brown overall with pale shoulders
- Hunts prairie dogs, rabbits, and other small mammals
- Nests on cliffs or trees, highly sensitive to disturbance
The Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)
The Northern Goshawk can be found in temperate and boreal forests across North America, Europe, and Asia. Its white underside contrasts with its dark gray back.
- One of largest forest-dwelling raptors
- Distinct white eye stripe
- Feeds on birds, rabbits, squirrels in woodlands
- Nests high up in coniferous trees such as pine
- Fiercely defends nest territory from intruders
The Black-and-white Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus melanoleucus)
This crested eagle inhabits dense lowland rainforests from Mexico south to Argentina. It has a predominantly white head and chest that stands out against its black wings and back.
- Very long tail with white band near tip
- Yellow feet, cere, and facial skin
- Preys on arboreal mammals like sloths
- Soars between gaps amidst the rainforest canopy
- Lays a single egg on a platform nest of sticks
The White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus)
The White-tailed Kite can be found hovering over open grasslands and marshlands throughout western North America. It is pale gray above with a white head, chest and tail.
- Distinctive long pointed wings
- Black wing tips help stabilize acrobatic flight
- Preys on voles and other small mammals
- Nests communally with up to 100 pairs in one tree
- Graceful kiting flight on angled wings
The Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris)
This small hawk lives in open woodlands and agricultural areas across Australia and New Guinea. Despite its name, its chest is mostly white in contrast to its pale gray wings.
- Red eyes and distinctive black “shoulders”
- Hunts rodents, lizards, insects while hovering
- Courting pairs may grasp talons and cartwheel
- Lays 3-4 eggs in a nest of sticks lined with grass
- Vocalizations include a “pit pit pit” alarm call
The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
The Osprey has a worldwide distribution centered around coastal areas and inland waterways. Its white underparts and head contrast with dark brown upperparts.
- Striking dark eye stripe and yellow eyes
- Outer toes can swivel to grasp fish more securely
- Plunges feet first to catch fish near water surface
- Migrates amazingly long distances across continents
- Nests high up on platforms near areas with plenty fish
Size comparison of North American hawk species
Conclusion: large hawk with white chest
This article profiled eight hawk species with predominantly white chests that capture the imagination of birders: the White-tailed Hawk, White Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Black-and-white Hawk Eagle, White-tailed Kite, Black-shouldered Kite, and Osprey. While they inhabit diverse habitats on various continents, they share some common traits. Their contrasting plumage distinguishes them from other raptors. They are formidable predators that inspire awe. Yet many face threats from habitat loss and human interference. Bird lovers who are lucky enough to see one overhead will no doubt remember it vividly as a magical encounter.
FAQs About Hawks
What is the largest breed of hawk?
The Ferruginous Hawk is the largest breeding hawk in North America. It measures up to 26 inches long with a wingspan reaching 56 inches. Globally, the Eurasian Eagle Owl is the largest owl species and is thus the largest hawk-like bird with a wingspan exceeding 6 feet.
Is it rare to see a white hawk?
It is relatively rare to see hawks that are completely white. However, several species like the Ferruginous Hawk and White-tailed Hawk have color morphs with predominantly white feathers below. These pale forms stand out visually against darker backdrops, which adds to the thrill when birders spot them overhead.
What is a white hawk called?
There are a few hawk species with common names referencing their white feathers like the White Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, and White-tailed Kite. The Ferruginous Hawk also has a white color morph. A completely albino hawk with pure white plumage is very rare.
How rare is it to see an albino hawk?
True albino hawks with pink eyes, feet, and white feathers are extremely rare. The mutations that cause complete albinism make it harder for birds of prey to survive in the wild. However, several species like the Red-tailed Hawk or Ferruginous Hawk occasionally have color morphs that are mostly white below.
Is hawks eyesight good?
Yes, hawks have visual acuity up to eight times better than humans, thanks to a high concentration of cones and rods in their retinas. Their vision is specially adapted to detect subtle movements from great heights as they scan the ground below for prey while soaring or gliding.
How rare is a black hawk?
Entirely black hawks are quite rare, though some species have melanistic color variants where excess skin pigments result in darker feathers. The Black Hawk-Eagle is a mostly black rainforest raptor that inhabits Central and South America. Some Black Hawks also serve with special forces units in the U.S. military.
Is Black Hawk bulletproof?
The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk is a military helicopter. While not completely immune to gunfire, its airframe and fuel system have self-sealing capability and other defenses to resist small arms fire as well as preserve crew safety.
Are black hawks safe?
The UH-60 Black Hawk is a battle-tested, all-weather tactical helicopter used by the U.S. military and allies. It incorporates damage tolerance and redundancy features to maximize safety for its crew and passengers. Over the decades, technological improvements have made the Black Hawk more reliable and resilient. Yet any military aircraft faces unavoidable risks during combat missions.
How much does 1 Black Hawk cost?
The latest UH-60M model Black Hawk helicopters cost approximately $21 million per unit, as of 2022. That reflects only the factory price from Lockheed Martin. Factoring in research, development, and militarization expenses over the program’s history, some estimates place the total cost per Black Hawk as high as $35 million. The price also varies depending on the specific mission configuration.