Harris’s Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus): Barry Kent MacKay

The Harris’s Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus) was named that by John James Audubon (1785 – 1851), in honor of his friend and patron Edward Harris (1799 – 1863), a naturalist and horse breeder (the first American to breed Percherons). Also sometimes called the Bay-winged Hawk, the species is distributed from the U.S. – Mexican border region south through much of Mexico, Central and South America. Sexes are similar in colour and pattern, but females are roughly a third larger than males. Immature birds are streaked.

They are famous for cooperatively hunting in small flocks, very unlike virtually all other raptors. Their prey is highly varied and includes small mammals, birds, reptiles, and large insects.  They will sometimes hunt on the ground, and at times a small group will join in an effort to flush prey, which will be caught by another bird, and shared.  They take disproportionately large prey in relation to their moderate size, such as jackrabbits.  Their habitat preferences are varied, and include not only desert, as I have shown in my painting, but wetlands, including coastal mangroves, and open, dry woodland.  They are non-migratory, and form hierarchical groups of two to seven birds, dominated by the Alpha female, and then her mate, and then the previous year’s brood.

Because of their intelligence, tractability, and overall attractiveness they have become a huge favourite of falconers and zoos.  That has resulted in them showing up in many movies and TV commercials featuring “falcons”, including those that purport to show medieval falconers in Europe, where the species was simply unknown.  This includes the wonderful live reconstruction of Rembrandt’s wondrous painting, The Night Watch (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8YhJs00nX0).  The Harris’s Hawk appears early in this short, amusing video, but there were no Harris’s Hawks in Europe when Rembrandt did the painting in 1642. Audubon, who first described it, had yet to be born!  The painting is 24 X 18 inches, in oils, on compressed hardboard.

Barry Kent MacKay

Bird Artist, Illustrator

Studio: (905) 472 9731


Purchase, print, product info: http://barry-mackay.pixels.com


31 Colonel Butler Drive

Markham, ON L3P 6B6 Canada

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