Zone-Tailed Hawk: The Ultimate Guide


The Zone-tailed Hawk is a grayish black color in appearance, and typically has underbellies that feature bold black and white bars that create a striking and eye-catching pattern.

As for the tail, the Zone-tailed Hawk tends to have a blackish tail with subtly white bands, with greyish flight feathers that stand out from the blackness of the body. 

Male Vs Female

Both male and female Zone-tailed Hawks are extremely similar in size and measurements.

However, despite being almost the same, the females do tend to be a lot heavier and larger than the male Zone-tailed Hawks, which is a typical occurrence amongst the Hawk family.

Typically, female Zone-tailed Hawks tend to be on average around 900g (which is around 2lbs) while the female Zone-tailed Hawks tend to be around 637g (which is around 1.4lbs).

Are They Aggressive?

As part of the Hawk family, the Zone-tailed Hawk is not usually hostile towards humans, although they can sometimes become aggressive if they are feeling threatened, or if they are feeling as though their nest is in danger.

As a generally solitary species of bird, the Zone-tailed Hawk tends to stay out of the prying eyes of humans and predators, nevertheless, the Zone-tailed Hawk will defend themselves and their young if they feel as though they are under attack or need to protect their territory. 

What Adaptations Do They Have?

The Zone-Tailed Hawk has plenty of adaptations that have allowed them to survive in the wild.

For starters, they have a long, point break that allows them to easily grab onto their prey, while their strong feet helps them to perch on branches and other stationary objects for long periods of time without falling.

The Zone-tailed Hawk also has long, powerful wings that are longer than the body, which helps them to fly with power, while also enabling them to effectively “dive” when hunting for prey and trying to catch unsuspecting rodents and other animals by surprise. 

Breeding / Reproduction Behaviour

Zone-Tailed Hawks will usually begin forming their partnerships during the early spring, which is right after they will have returned from places they migrated to during the winter.

In order to form courtships, the male Zone-tailed Hawks will usually ascend high into the sky, displaying an impressive air spectacle in the hopes of attracting a partner to mate with.

Sometimes, females will also join in on the air display, although these instances are few and far between. However, once the partnership has been formed, both the male and female counterparts will take to the skies together, circling and calling out to one another.

Their Calls / Sounds

The Zone-tailed Hawk gives off a loud, high-pitched screaming noise that sounds a little like “kreee-ahh” which is a call that is similar to that of other hawk species, particularly the Red-Tailed Hawk.

This screech is frequently vocalized by the Zone-tailed Hawks during flight, while they hunt and even sometimes when they feel threatened and wish to assert their dominance or protect their territory.

In addition to this, during nesting/breeding season, these birds will also sometimes vocalize little, “yapping” noises to attract a partner.

What Do They Eat? (Diet)

The diet of the Zone-Tailed Hawk will vary greatly depending on where in the world they are, as well as whether or not they are experiencing any food shortages.

An opportunistic hunter, the Zone-tailed Hawk will hunt what they can, although they are known to show a preference for large lizards, frogs, snakes, insects, small rodents, and even sometimes centipedes!

Where Do They Live? (Habitat)

Due to the large size of the Zone-Tailed Hawk, this large raptor often tends to live within the Arid hills of the Southwest Canyon Lands, where the breed itself is native to, although they can quite easily adapt to other areas of the world, so long as they have plenty of hills and mountains.

The Zone-tailed Hawk likes to stick to large trees and high mountainous walls that they can perch from, and are known to circle for hours on end with their large, powerful wings in search of prey.

What Are Their Nesting Habits?

Zone-Tailed Hawk

As a relatively large and solitary creature, the Zone-tailed Hawk often prefers to go through its seasons alone, nesting in big trees, on the edges of cliffs, and even ledges on canyon walls.

More often than not, the nest will usually be placed more than 30 feet above the ground to keep their young safe, although sometimes this height can reach upwards of 100 feet, depending on the location.

Moreso, the Zone-tailed Hawk thrives in arid foothills and ledges that reach high altitudes and prefers to nest in environments home to rocky canyons and cliffs. 

How Long Do They Live? (Lifespan)

While more research is needed on a precise understanding of how long Zone-tailed Hawks live, as a member of the hawk family, it is presumed that they will live for a period of no longer than 12 years in the wild.

Nevertheless, the Zone-tailed Hawk does seem to be a species of the hawk with a relatively low average life expectancy, with the oldest Zone-tailed Hawk to date living to just over 4 years.

What Predators Do They Have?

The Zone-tailed Hawk will aggressively fight for its territory, regardless of the threat, and is known to be quite a fearsome bird when threatened.

Nonetheless, the Zone-tailed Hawk does have some predators that it is at risk of being hunted by, including humans, Golden Eagles, and Red-Tailed Hawks. 

What Are Their Feathers Like?

The feathers of the Zone-Tailed Hawk are a deep, grayish-black in appearance that can sometimes appear blue-hued in the sunlight.

On the underside of the belly, mature, adult Zone-tailed Hawks will usually have bold black and white barred undersides, while the vibrant flight feathers are a mixture of brown, black, and grey, with the tips usually being dark brown or even black in appearance.

However, even though it is common for Zone-tailed Hawks to have this coloring pattern, it is worth noting that color variations are present within this species of bird, with some Zone-tailed Hawks featuring elements of yellow and white bars.

What Does Their Poop Look Like?

Much like other types of bird, the Zone-tailed Hawk has brown poop covered in white, runny excrement.

Interestingly, as a member of the hawk family, when the Zone-tailed Hawk poops, it will “fling” its increments far behind it so that it will not touch them while they are in flight. The more you know!

Do They Migrate?

Yes, the Zone-tailed Hawk is classified as a “migratory bird” which essentially means that they are a species of hawk that will migrate at certain points of the year, usually due to the changing of seasons.

They are a highly adaptable species that can settle into a variety of different habitats, although they do tend to prefer temporarily setting in areas of the world that are hilly, mountainous, and have plenty of treetops.

When they do opt to migrate (whether down to a change of season or lack of food) they will usually fly in groups for safety reasons, and have even been known to mingle with other breeds of bird, including vultures.

Conservation Status

At the time of writing this guide, the Zone-tailed Hawk has a current conservation status that is classified as being “least concern”.

This is fantastic news because it means that the population of the Zone-tailed Hawk is on a steady increase, which means that they are not at risk of becoming extinct.

Needless to say, there is a growing concern regarding deforestation across the globe, as the Zone-Tailed Hawk, while adaptable, is a bird that thrives best when surrounded by plenty of large trees and other types of foliage. 

It should also be noted that there is also a growing concern about the rise of illegal hunting by humans.

Even though the population of the Zone-tailed Hawk is not declining at this moment in time, there have been many calls made to address the growing issue of illegal hunting of wild birds such as the Zone-Tailed Hawk, and this is something that could potentially affect the bird’s conservation status in years to come. 

Fun Facts

So, there you have it! Now that you know all about the Zone-Tailed Hawk, we’re going to be providing you with some interesting and fun facts about the Zone-tailed Hawk that you may not yet know. Read on to discover them:

  1. The Zone-tailed Hawk mimics the unique, V-shaped wing pattern of Turkey Vultures – which means that they have a hunting advantage to prey that is unafraid of vultures!
  2. Boasting incredibly good eyesight, the Zone-tailed Hawk is able to spot prey from up to 100 meters above the ground, and sometimes even more than that. Impressive or what?
  3. When trying to find a courtship, male Zone-tailed Hawks will put on incredible aerial displays in the hopes of finding a mate.