Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Broad-winged Hawk - Buteo platypterus
ACCIPITRIDAE Members:
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General Comments The Broad-winged Hawk is famous for its strongly migratory habits, as it completely leaves the United States in winter, except for small numbers wintering in southern Florida. And, because it has a wide nesting range across southern Canada and the eastern states, large numbers of birds are available to pass through the state in migration, primarily in the fall through the mountains, where it uses northeast-southwest trending ridges for updrafts. A few thousand birds can be seen on certain days, almost always on the first day after a cold front, with strong northwesterly winds helping to provide lift in the form of updrafts against the ridges. It breeds sparingly over most of the state, though more frequently in the western portions. For breeding, it favors extensive, often hilly, deciduous and mixed forests, typically unbroken by fields and pastures. It is difficult to see perched, and thus most birds are detected by its piercing voice or seen circling high overhead, though it forages inside the forest. There have been a handful of winter reports of the species, mostly on CBC's. Nearly all of these lack substantiation and are assumed to have been Red-shouldered Hawks, though several from the Cape Hatteras area were made by experienced birders.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S4B
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Migrant and scarce summer resident. Uncommon spring migrant, and rare to uncommon fall migrant, over most of the region; surprisingly scarce (mostly rare) along the coast, even in fall migration; rare in summer (breeder) in the western portion, and very rare over the eastern half, where breeding is sporadic; essentially does not nest along the coast. However, a family group of an adult and two juveniles was seen just north of Oriental (Pamlico) on 28 Jul 2014, strongly suggesting local breeding close to tidal water. Accidental/casual in winter: 1 immature (photograph), Cape Hatteras, 27 Dec 1984; 1 adult, Buxton, 30 Dec 1987; and 1 adult, central Carteret, 13 Dec 2008. Mainly early or mid-Apr to early Oct, with the spring migration continuing fairly late, into early Jun. Peak counts: 15, Cedar Island, 8 Jun 1988.
Piedmont Summer resident and migrant. Mostly uncommon migrant (spring and fall); rare to (formerly) very uncommon summer resident (and declining) in the eastern half of the region, and uncommon in the western half, more numerous (uncommon to fairly common) in foothill ranges such as the Brushy Mountains and South Mountains. Noticeable fall migration across the foothills, as noted from hawk-watching stations, such as Pilot Mountain SP. Present mainly from early Apr to early Oct; peak flights in the latter half of Sep. Several winter reports, but these might all relate to Red-shouldered Hawk. Peak counts: 10,835, at Pilot Mountain SP, 22 Sep 1993; 2,718 at that site, 23 Sep 2015; 2,392 at that site, 27 Sep 2014; and 2,271, at that site, 21 Sep 1997.
Mountains Summer resident and migrant. In summer, uncommon to fairly common, and reasonably widespread, over most of the region, nesting up to about 4,500 feet. Spring migration not overly noticeable, but generally common to at times abundant (a day after a strong cold front) in fall migration, though in a narrow window in the latter half of Sep. Mostly present from mid-Apr to early Oct. One or two winter reports, likely correct: one in Alleghany on a CBC on 30 Dec 2009, and one (same bird?) on the Mount Jefferson CBC on 3 Jan 2010. Peak counts: 9,714 at Grandfather Mountain (Avery), 23 Sep 2015; 2,607, in northern Watauga, 28 Sep 2016; 2,279, over Linville Peak (Avery), 20 Sep 2014.
Finding Tips If you visit a hawk-watch site in the mountains in fall, such as Pilot Mountain, you might be able to see over 1,000 birds in a day, in the latter half of Sep. Of course, your best bet is a sunny day with northwesterly winds. If you are looking for them in spring or summer, your best bet is the mountains or foothills. You will likely average only one or two birds a day, and you may well only hear one instead of seeing one, as the penetrating whistle can be heard for over a half-mile.
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Attribution LeGrand[2018-11-06], LeGrand[2017-08-24], LeGrand[2016-06-01]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.
NA Maps
(source NatureServe)

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WI, WV
Canada AB, BC, MB, NB, NS, NT, ON, QC, SK, YT

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002; WILDSPACETM 2002