Buteos (“boot-e-ohs”) are a genus of hawks. Birders use the term to describe any broad-winged, short-tailed hawk. As a group, they tend to be migratory, and the arrival of some Buteos are a birder’s first sign of spring. They don’t all arrive at once, and not all stay. But Buteos have arrived in southwestern Idaho.
Rough-legged Hawks usually arrive earliest, because they start closest and have the furthest north to go. These guys breed on the North Slope of Alaska and winter from southern Canada south to California, southern Arizona and New Mexico, southern Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland.
The Red-tailed Hawk is one of the most widespread and commonly observed birds of prey in North America. It occupies a broad range of habitats from central Alaska south to Venezuela and east to the Virgin Islands. And it had wildly variable coloration, ranging from almost white to almost black. And not all color patterns have the classic red tail seen in this bird. Red-taileds are resident in Southwestern Idaho year-round. And among raptors, only the Peregrine Falcon has done a better job of adapting to manmade environments.
Swainson’s Hawks are among the last hawks to arrive at breeding territories. That’s because nearly the entire population migrates annually between breeding areas in North America and wintering grounds in pampas of South America, a round-trip that can exceed 20,000 kilometers. Even raptors take a while to make that kind of flight.
There are nine Buteo species in North America.1 Only four – these three and Ferruginous Hawks – are common in Idaho. WC will work on a better Ferruginous Hawk photo this spring. At this point, WC’s Ferrug shots are “documentary;” i.e., crappy.
Nonetheless, WC remains hawkish on Buteos.
- At least if you include Hawai’i in North America. The Hawaiian Hawk is recognized as a Buteo as well. ↩