Tiny Hawk: The Ultimate Guide

The scientific name for this species of bird is Accipiter superciliosus. They are a monotypic species, meaning that there are no variations on this species of bird. 


The appearance of this bird varies according to its age and gender. Younger tiny hawks tend to be a grey-brown color on the top of their bodies, with a darker head area.

You will also notice 4 gray bars and a pale tip on their tails. Their underside will appear a yellow-beige hue with thin lines of rust (rufous). This barring will not be present on the flank or throat regions. The irises of juvenile tiny hawks tend to be yellow in color. 

Adult tiny hawks are dark gray when observed from above, with a black crown. The sides of its head will be gray and white. With the exception of their throat and abdomens, they have a mostly white underside, finely barred all over. 

You will notice gray and black banding on the tail. These birds have red eyes and a black beak. Their legs are a deep yellow color. 

Male vs Female

There is a slight sexual dimorphism exhibited in this species. The males measure about 20 cm (7.8 inches) and will weigh approximately 75 g (0.17 pounds) each. The females are slightly larger, measuring about 26.5 cm (10.4 inches) and weighing around 120 g (0.26 pounds). 

Are they aggressive?

These small birds have been known to exhibit signs of aggression. This is commonly seen during play fights. 

What adaptations do they have?

The small size of this species has a very fast flight speed. They are estimated to fly at average speeds of 30 to 40 kph (19 to 25 mph) but can reach speeds of 50 kph (31 mph) for short distances. 

Breeding / Reproduction behavior

There is not a wealth of information concerning their reproductive behaviors. Their breeding season ranges from February to June in more northern areas of their habitat, such as Panama to Columbia. 

In the southern range, the breeding season is from October to January. They build nests from sticks in the canopy region of tall trees. When reproducing, the female birds can lay between 1 and 3 eggs at a time.

These are blueish-white in color and may have faint spots or streaks of brown. 

Nothing is known about their incubation or fledgling periods. 

Their calls / sounds

Tiny hawks have a shrill and high-pitched call. It is said to quaver a little and consist of 20-30 notes with an uneven pitch. The first few sounds they make are accelerating before it settles into more of a steady rhythm.

Observers have transcribed it as “caucau-ca-ca-ca”, “keer-keer-keer”, and “kree-ree-ree-ree.”

What do they eat (diet)

The tiny hawk eats small birds as the bulk of its diet. The most common prey are passerines, small perching birds. Throughout Costa Rica they are also known to feed on hummingbirds, actually being their only avian predator. 

They hunt by learning the regular feeding spots of their prey and then hiding in wait for them there. They then launch themselves out to ambush the prey and can catch them with ease. 

Some tiny hawks have been known to hunt bats and rodents as well. 

Where do they live (habitat)

These birds are most commonly found in Latin America, specifically the regions from Nicaragua to North Argentina. You will spot it all throughout tropical South America, most commonly in humid lowland forests.

This means that on both sides of the Andes, Panama, the Guianas, Amazonia, and the southern and eastern coasts of South America.

They also reside in woodland up to approximately 1,8000 meters (5905.5 feet). You may also spot them in the high secondary growth and the canopy regions of rainforests. 

What are their nesting habits?

These birds are mostly found in pairs, although they do not tolerate being close to each other. Nests will be set at a distance ranging from 0.5 to 2.1 km (0.31 – 1.3 miles) apart. The more food there is in the immediate surroundings, the smaller the territories are. 

Nests are commonly built in a hidden spot close to the trunk of trees. They are commonly formed in the lower regions of the canopy layer. The nests are made from a twig platform, lined with flakes of tree bark. 

The nest has a central cup used to protect the eggs from falling out. Nests are likely to take a number of weeks to build and are completed many weeks before the female lays the eggs.

How long do they live (lifespan)

The average lifespan of these birds is around 4 years. They are believed to be quite a sedentary breed. 

What predators do they have?

Specific predators of the tiny hawk are not known. Species known to feed on hawks, in general, include owls, larger hawks, crows, ravens, eagles, porcupines, raccoons, and snakes. 

These predators tend to prey on the eggs and young more than the adult hawks. 

What are their feathers like?

The bird’s tails are generally quite short, especially when compared to other Accipiters. The wingspan is a medium length and you should notice that the tips are pointed.

What does their poop look like?

The process by which hawks poop is known as slicing. Their poop tends to be white thanks to the high levels of uric acid within their system. This builds up as a result of the insoluble nitrogen from the protein in their diet.

Do they migrate?

The migration pattern of the tiny hawk species is not known.

Conservation status

The population numbers of this species have been observed to be decreasing. This decline is not particularly fast and as such, they do not reach the threshold to be declared vulnerable as a species. 

The species is classified as Least Concern.

Fun facts

The species is diurnal, meaning that they are awake and active during the day. 

The Accipiter genus that tiny hawks belong to is the most diverse in the family Accipitridae. This genus contains more than 51 different recognized species. The name for this species comes from the Latin word accipere, meaning to grasp.