The Gray Hawk is noted for maneuverability in close quarters when chasing prey. This buteo is at home in wooded areas near rivers; it is also seen in brush areas near rivers when forested areas are not available.
The Gray Hawk is 14-18 inches long and has a wingspan of 32-38 inches. The adult is mostly gray, hence the name. The upper side is gray; the tail is black, barred with one wide and one narrow white band. The underside is barred finely with medium gray and white. The bottoms of the wings are are white barred sparingly with gray. The underside of the tail is white. Juveniles are dark brown on the upper side, except for the cheeks and face; the underside is white barred with dark brown. The face consists of a dark line over the eye and a white line over that; also a dark line under the eye, off-white cheeks and throat.
The nest of a breeding pair is built in a tree. Deciduous trees seem to be the preference of the Gray Hawk, although conifers may be used. The nests are built in the highest tree in the forest and as high up in that tree as possible. The nest is built out of sticks and is generally hard to find.
2-3 white or bluish white eggs are laid, usually unblemished by brown, although brown markings have been reported. The eggs are incubated by the female for 32 days.
The Gray Hawk searches for prey by soaring or circling low over mesquite fields. When prey is spotted the Gray Hawk chases after it, showing its prowess in avoiding obstacles such as trees and brush. If the prey escapes the hawk may perch near the area and scan the ground for the prey. The Gray Hawk seems to prefer lizards, as well as birds, small rodents and large insects.
The Gray Hawk is found in southwestern Arizona and along the Rio Grande in Texas. The birds in Arizona are migratory; the Texas hawks remain throughout the year. The Gray Hawk is plagued by habitat loss but is not listed under the Endangered Species Act.