The Zone-tailed Hawk is a slender bodied buteo with long wings and tail. It is in appearance much like the Common Blackhawk and nests in the same habitat but is much different in habits.
The Zone-tail is 19-22 inches long and has a wingspan of 48-55 inches. The plumage is a dark black except for a gray ring around the eye, and the tail which is banded black and white alternately; tail ends with a broad black band and a narrow white tip. The undersides are black. Immatures are similar in appearance to the adults, but differs in color. The plumage overall is more brownish; the undersides are spotted white, as well as the upper sides, which are spotted more sparingly. The tail is brown striped with black.
Nests are built in deciduous and coniferous trees; often the nests are built in the highest tree around. The nests are build of sticks, loosely. The nests are reported to be reused from year to year. 1-3 white to bluish white eggs are laid, sparingly spotted with brown. The eggs are incubated primarily by the female for 35 days. The male hunts for food while the female tends the nestlings. The nestlings will fly in 6-7 weeks.
The Zone-tailed Hawk is at home near mountains, valleys or other "rugged" areas. Hunting usually takes place in open spaces such as desert grasslands or in sparse forests. The Zone-tail soars and glides in circles in search of food, which is primarily birds and lizards. It will also eat large insects and small mammals. The Zone-tail is very much in appearance and in flight similar to the Turkey Vulture, and some claim it uses this resemblance to come closer to prey and catch them unaware.
The Zone-tailed Hawk is found throughout Mexico and Central America, as well as southern and central Baja California, southern California, central and southern Arizona, much of New Mexico and southern Texas.