The broad-winged hawk is a small raptor with a stocky build, wide wings (as the name suggests), and a hooked bill. It has a mottled brown head and upperparts that can sometimes feature tints of copper. It has a short, squared tail with bands of black and white. It also has white underparts that are streaked with brown, and yellow legs.
The broad-winged hawk’s call is a high-pitched, whistling sound that is a combination of a short and long note teh-weeeeeee. This call is often used when the broad-winged hawk is in flight or perched at its nest.
The broad-winged hawk breeds in almost all of the eastern half of the United States, as well as parts of southern Canada from Alberta east to Nova Scotia. It prefers to inhabit quiet, expansive deciduous or mixed woodlands particularly near bodies of water. The broad-winged hawk migrates for the winter with flocks sometimes numbering in the thousands as it travels down in Central and South America. There it prefers to live in, or at the edge of, tropical forests. There is also a subspecies of the broad-winged hawk that lives year-round in Cuba and the Caribbean islands.
The broad-winged hawk has a fairly varied diet, feeding primarily on small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. Among these are frogs, rodents, earthworms, crabs, spiders, crickets and much more. It looks for prey by perching itself at a high vantage point on a tree limb. It quickly swoops down and snatches prey off of the ground, using its sharp talons to make a quick kill. On occasion, it will also hunt on the wing.
The broad-winged hawk builds its nest in the large deciduous and coniferous trees of its forest habitat, typically in the lower third branches. Both sexes work together to build the platform-like nest using sticks that they sometimes line with moss, barks, and other plant materials. The female lays 2 to 3 eggs that are mostly white with brown splotches. The female incubates the eggs for 28 to 31 days before hatching. The female watches over and feeds the young while the male hunts before the nestlings reach independence at 4 to 5 weeks.