The Galapagos Hawk is a large, dark coloured bird with broad wings and a broad tail. The Galapagos Hawk is an active predator which feeds on small invertebrates such as small lizards, snakes and rodents. Galapagos Hawks can grow to be 55 centimetres long with a wingspan of 120 centimetres. With less than 150 mating pairs in existence, you are more likely to see a Galapagos Hawk in the air, than to see it perched close by.
Galapagos Hawks have very good vision and they are more likely to spot you first, before you spot them while circling in the sky.
Being one of the Galapagos most important endemic scavengers, they play an important role at the ‘top’ of the food chain. With their broad wings and broad tails, Galapagos Hawks are well adapted for soaring the skies around the islands.
The adult Hawk has various colouring within the species. The adult Galapagos Hawk is generally a sooty brownish black colour; the crown being slightly blacker than the back. Their feathers of the mantle are partially edged with paler brown, grey, or buff, with their white bases showing to some extent. Their tail coverts are also barred with white. The tail itself is silvery grey above, with about ten narrow black bars; below it is quite pale. The wing feathers are paler on inner webs, barred with white.
Below it has indistinct rufous edges to the feathers of the flanks and lower abdomen. The under-tail coverts are barred with white. Under-wing coverts are black, contrasting with the pale bases of the wing quills. The eyes are brown, the beak greyish black, paler at its base which is known as the ‘cere’, legs and feet are yellow. The male Hawk is smaller than the female Hawk.
The young hawks however, appear quite different from the adults in that they are well camouflaged with an overall brown appearance with varying amounts of striping below and paler mottling above. Their eyes are light grey-brown, and the beak black, blue-grey at its base. The cere is grey-green, the feet pale yellow-green.
When the immature plumage becomes badly worn, the pale areas become almost white.
The Galapagos Hawk survives almost entirely on giant centipedes, locusts, small lava lizards, snakes and rodents. It takes young marine iguanas rather commonly. It also catches young land iguanas, hatchling tortoises and probably also hatchling sea turtles. It has been seen to remain near nesting Fork-tailed Gulls and probably takes young and perhaps eggs of these and other birds, as well as poultry.
The Galapagos Hawks are very noisy birds and make almost screaming sounds when air-born. During mating season they tend to make a much softer ‘kilp kilp kilp’ sound.
Galapagos Hawks are very approachable birds, however, they will abandon their nest if it has been disturbed by humans.