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Chilean Hawk

Accipiter chilensis

The Chilean hawk, Accipiter chilensis, is a bird of prey with a striking appearance. Males typically reach a length of 37 to 38 centimeters, while females, slightly larger, measure 41 to 42 centimeters. Adults boast black upperparts and an ash-grey chest and abdomen adorned with dark barring. A distinctive feature is the throat, marked with longitudinal dark stripes, and a white undertail. The brown uppertail displays 5 or 6 dark bands. Observers will note the greenish-yellow legs and yellow eyes, with both sexes sharing similar plumage patterns.

Identification Tips

Juvenile Chilean hawks can be distinguished by their browner upperparts and cream feather fringes. Their chests and abdomens are paler with longitudinal stripes, and the lighter uppertail makes the banding more pronounced.

Habitat

This raptor is primarily found in temperate forests, with occasional sightings in sclerophyllous forests, parklands, and mixed forest-open habitats. It prefers areas with dense undergrowth, such as those dominated by South American mountain bamboo.

Distribution

The Chilean hawk breeds in the Andes forests from central Chile and western Argentina to Tierra del Fuego. It is generally sedentary, but some individuals may migrate to the lowlands of NW Argentina in winter. The breeding range extends north to Neuquén Province in Argentina and is thought to be common up to the O'Higgins Region in Chile.

Behaviour

Outside the breeding season, pairs of Chilean hawks separate and are seldom seen soaring. They are cautious around human activity and prefer to perch on branches within their territory, engaging in low flights between favorite forest areas. Males perform aerobatic displays, including a double loop resembling an upright "8" during courtship.

Song & Calls

Vocalizations are primarily heard during the breeding season, with a repertoire that includes high-pitched scolding vocalizations, a barking row of "keh" or "kow," and a woodpecker-like staccato of "kek" calls. Pairmates communicate with a squealing "waaah," and a soft clear whistle is used by parents towards their young.

Breeding

Breeding occurs in the austral summer, with pairs forming from mid-late October. The nest is an oval platform built high in trees, and the clutch typically consists of two to three eggs. Parents are protective, defending their territory against other birds of prey.

Diet and Feeding

The Chilean hawk's diet is predominantly birds, with forest passerines making up the majority of its prey. It employs both active searching and ambush tactics to catch prey and may cooperate in hunting with its mate during the breeding season.

Conservation status

The Chilean hawk is considered relatively common in certain regions, such as the Cape Horn area, but is generally rare and secretive. It is protected under Chilean law and is not listed as threatened in Argentina. Habitat loss and human activities pose potential threats to its population.

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