Hawks a bird of pray
These include hawks, eagles, kites, falcons, caracaras and the osprey, all of which hunt for food and are collectively called raptors. About 50 species have been recorded in Costa Rica, and many are hard to tell apart because of similar plumage and flight. Being hunters, they rely on stealth and speed, which makes them hard to observe closely; identification is difficult without binoculars. Raptors are, however common throughout the country. Hawks are among the most frequently seen and easily identified ones.
The black-chested hawk (gavilán pechinegro; Leucopternis princeps) is a hawk with very broad wings found in mid-elevation humid forests, from 400m (usually higher) to 2500m. Its plumage is mainly black with a with a white band in its tail, and fine black barring in the white belly and under-wings, giving it a light gray appearance from a distance. The distinct contrast between the black chest and the light belly is a good field mark. It is an acrobatic flier and hunts mainly inside the forest.
In the lowlands on both coasts, the common black hawk (gavilán cangrejero; Buteogallus anthracinus) is often seen near water where it feeds on crabs and other coastal animals. It is quite large and all black except for a white band in the tail, yellow feet and a yellow base of the bill.
The white hawk (gavilán blanco; Leucopternis albicollis) is almost all white except for a black band in the tail and black markings at the ends of the wings. Hawks have very broad wings and short wide tails, while kites have long slim tails and slim wings that are bent back. This distinguishes the white hawk from the fairly similarly colored black-shouldered kite.
The most common resident hawk is the roadside hawk (gavilán chapulinero; Buteo magnirostris), which perches on trees and posts in open areas waiting for small mammals, reptiles or large insects to pass below. Because perches in open areas tend to follow roads or tracks, the bird is well named. It is a small hawk with a grayish head and chest merging into a brown-gray back and pale belly barred with rusty brown. The tail is widely banded in light and dark grey. The throat is whitish and the feet, eyes and base of bill are yellow. It prefers the lowlands and is more common on Pacific slopes. The most frequently seen hawk from late September to May is the migrant broad-winged hawk (gavilán aludo; Buteo platypterus) which also likes to pounce on its prey from a low perch, often at the forest edge. It looks rather like a browner, larger version of the roadside hawk, but it has a more distinctly white throat.