In a Costa Rican garden: Roadside Hawk

Roadside Hawk (Rupornis magnirostris): Gavilán chapulinero; Buse à grand bec; Großschnabelbussard

Perhaps it’s because of the rather mundane name or maybe simply because we see it almost every day but the Roadside Hawk (Rupornis magnirostris) has received far too little attention. Well, here it is now, featuring as the only hawk species in this series of posts on the birds that are daily visitors to my Costa Rican garden.

Roadside Hawk at the CATIE canal; photo by John Beer

The Roadside Hawk is among the smallest of the Accipitridae family. It is now the single member of its own genus Rupornis, having previously been placed in the genus Buteo, to which other hawks belong. It feeds chiefly on insects, lizards and small mammals, but it does not inspire in songbirds the same fear as does, for example, our Bicolored Hawk (Accipiter bicolor). It appears regularly in the garden, usually choosing a fairly high perch in one of the eucalyptus trees.

Roadside Hawk at CATIE; the yellow eye against the grey of the head gives it a fierce look; photo by John Beer

When you spot a hawk in most parts of Costa Rica, this is the most likely one. The combination of grey head and rufous barred underparts is distinctive. Note, however, that the underparts of the Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) may look rather similar, as in the following shot of a light morph Broad-winged Hawk:

Light morph Broad-winged Hawk at Bonilla Arriba; photo by John Beer

The amount of barring on this only slightly larger hawk is variable, but the head is brown, not grey. During migration it can be as common as the Roadside Hawk, but it is chunky where the Roadside is slim and it lacks the rufous wing patches that further distinguish the Roadside Hawk. These are best seen in flight:

Roadside Hawk in flight at Pavones; photo by John Beer

but can be seen sometimes when perched:

Beautiful Roadside Hawk showing rufous primaries at Angostura; photo by John Beer

The Roadside Hawk can be found country-wide in Costa Rica with the possible exception of heavily forested parts of the Talamanca mountain range.

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