Hawaiian Hawk: The Ultimate Guide


The Hawaiian Hawk, otherwise known as Buteo Solitarius, is a bird that hails from the forests of Hawaii – and was once seen as a symbol of royalty!

As the only native Hawk in Hawaii, the Hawaiin Hawk can be seen in two varying color patterns, which include either a dark, brownish color or a lighter, off-white color. 

Male Vs Female

There aren’t a whole lot of differences between male and female Hawaiian Hawks. However, the female does tend to be slightly larger than the male, which is something that is often seen within different types of hawk species.

On average, the male stands at around 40 to 46 centimeters, which is around 16 to 18 inches in length.

As for females, they usually stand upwards of 50cm (20-22 inches) and are usually heavier than the males, weighing in at around 605g (1.3lbs), with the male usually weighing around 441g (0.9lbs). 

Are They Aggressive?

Yes, the Hawaiian Hawk is known to display aggressive behaviors from time to time. The Hawaiian Hawk is extremely protective of its nest and will fight to the death to keep its chick safe.

They are also known to be relatively territorial, and won’t hesitate to show aggression to other birds and humans if it feels threatened – and that goes for both the male and females!

It should be noted that, during the breeding season, female Hawaiian Hawks can become aggressive and show a low tolerance towards the male partner after the chick has been born – but this is temporary and often passes after around 5 weeks. 

What Adaptations Do They Have?

The Hawaiian Hawk has many different adaptations that have allowed it to survive living near Hawaii’s active volcanoes, including powerful wings and great eyesight.

The Hawaiian Hawk also has very large talons that allow it to easily grab onto insects and small rodents, and their feathers are able to strategically blend into their natural habitat of forests and other foliage.

Breeding / Reproduction Behaviour

Hawaiian Hawks will typically begin to mate at around three or four years of age. Similar to other species of Hawk, Hawaiian Hawks will usually mate with one partner and remain in the partnership for the entirety of their lives.

Breeding season is typically from March all the way through to September, with the female usually laying just one egg in April or May.

With the female doing most of the incubation by herself, the male will standard guard and protect them both, and after a period of time that stretches to around 38 days, the egg will then hatch. 

Interestingly, after the chick has been hatched, the female will temporarily develop a dislike towards the male, and keep him away from the nest for around four to five weeks.

During this time, the male will keep his distance from the mother and chick, returning to the nest only to provide food. Then, at around the 9-week mark, the chick will fledge and leave the nest. 

Their Calls / Sounds

The Hawaiian Hawk is a relatively vocal bird and is known to whistle both to themselves and to others around them.

They are characterized by letting out a high shrill while they are hunting or calling to others, and often let out high-pitched calls during the breeding season, as well as while they are making nests. 

What Do They Eat? (Diet)

Characterized as being an opportunistic predator, Hawaiian Hawks have versatile feeding habits, and aren’t afraid to switch up their diet in the case of a shortage!

More often than not, though, Hawaiian Hawks will usually stick to small rodents, insects, grubs, and even birds that are smaller than them.

While hunting, these unique hawks will circle the skies in search of prey and, as soon as prey has been spotted, these cunning hawks will dive from the air in order to take their prey by surprise.

Sometimes, Hawaiian Hawks may even perch themselves on a stationary perch (such as a high branch) where they will patiently wait for unsuspecting prey to walk into their view, where they will then pounce and attack. 

Where Do They Live? (Habitat)

The Hawaiian Hawk, which is informally referred to as ‘lo, is only from Hawaii and was once seen as a symbol of royalty.

So much so that the Hawaiian people considered this bird to be an Aumakua, which is a personal or family god that is known to be both sacred and protective.

For this reason, killing or even harming this bird is considered entirely unacceptable and taboo. To this day, the Hawaiian Hawk lives in the forests of Hawaii and is treated with the utmost respect and care by the natives.

What Are Their Nesting Habits?

Hawaiian Hawk

By nature, the Hawaiian Hawk prefers to nest in the native trees of Hawaii’s beautiful, tropical forests. However, due to deforestation in recent times, it has meant that this hawk has had to forage and nest in non-native vegetation.

While the Hawaiian Hawk has shown remarkable ability to adapt to these unsettling conditions, the shrinking habitat of the Hawaiian Hawk’s native ground has meant that their population has begun to consistently decline. 

Nevertheless, the Hawaiian Hawk is extremely protective of its nest once it has been built, and will defend it regardless of how large the threat may be.

A mated pair will share the same nest, and interestingly, will usually share it for the rest of their lives, building and strengthening it with each passing season until it grows to around 40 inches or 101cm. 

How Long Do They Live?(Lifespan)

The average lifespan of the Hawaiian Hawk will, on average, live for a period of around 17 years in the wild.

Due to the fact that they are so respected in Hawaii, it means that there usually isn’t any reason for Hawaiian Hawks to be kept in captivity, so there is little data that lets us know how long they may last in captivity. 

Of course, it should also be noted that, while 17 years is the maximum lifespan of a Hawaiian Hawk, a variety of other factors can shorten the lifespan, such as deforestation, illegal hunting, lack of food, and more.

What Predators Do They Have?

The Hawaiian Hawk does not have many predators, although it is worth noting that they are at risk of being hunted by hawks and eagles that are larger than them.

However, seeing as the Hawaiian Hawk is Hawaii’s only hawk – the risk of being hunted by a larger bird is significantly lowered.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that some of the biggest threats to this species of bird are deforestation in Hawaii, as well as illegal shooting and hunting by humans.

What Are Their Feathers Like?

The Hawaiian Hawk typically has dark brown feathers that cover the entire body, as well as little specks of white and grey hues interspersed within the feathers. 

What Does Their Poop Look Like?

As we’re sure you might have already guessed, the Hawaiian Hawk’s poop is pretty much the exact same as any other type of bird! When fresh, Hawaiian poop is usually a paint-like texture that is white in appearance and brown inside.

In some instances, certain types of Hawaiian Hawks may come in a white color variation, in which the underside of their bellies and wings are crisp white, although this depends on the way that they have been bred.

Do They Migrate?

No, Hawaiian Hawks are not known to ever migrate from Hawaii. The Hawaiian Hawk is rarely spotted in Oahu, Maui, and even the islands of Kauai, but these sightings have been few and far between, and the species of hawk is only known to breed in Hawaii. 

Conservation Status

At the time of writing, the conservation status of the Hawaiian Hawk is classified as “Near Threatened” which means that, while they do not currently have a healthy population, their population is stable which hopefully means that we will see the population begin to increase soon.

The main reason for their decline over the years is due to deforestation and an ever-shrinking size in their natural habitat, although illegal hunting also contributes to this, too.

Fun Facts

The Hawaiian Hawk is the only hawk species that is native to Hawaii – hence the name!

The Hawaiian Hawk is considered to be a symbol of royalty in Hawaiian culture, so much so that the palace of Honolulu had a monarchy named after the species.

Hawaiian Hawks will usually mate for life at the ages of three or four!

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