Ornate Hawk-eagle Spizaetus ornatus


Justification of Red List Category

Based on a model of future deforestation in the Amazon basin, and habitat loss and persecution elsewhere within its extremely large range, it is suspected that the population of this species will decline by 25-30% over the next three generations, and it has therefore been uplisted to Near Threatened.

Population justification
Ferguson-Lees et al. (2001) estimated the population to number in the tens of thousands. Partners in Flight estimated the population to number fewer than 50,000 individuals (A. Panjabi in litt. 2008). The population is therefore placed in the band 20,000-50,000 individuals, which equates to 13,333-33,333 mature individuals, rounded here to 13,300-33,300 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This species is suspected to lose 21.8-40.4% of suitable habitat within its distribution over three generations (56 years) based on a model of Amazonian deforestation (Soares-Filho et al. 2006, Bird et al. 2011). Although the species is susceptible to hunting, it survives in fragmented landscapes (A. Lees in litt. 2011); it is therefore suspected to decline by 25-29% over three generations.

Distribution and population

Spizaetus ornatus ranges through most of the Neotropics. Subspecies vicarius occurs from south-east Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama to northern South America. It is rare in west Colombia, and is also known to reach west Ecuador, but there have been very few records there (del Hoyo et al. 1994). The nominate subspecies ornatus occurs from east Colombia east through Venezuela, where it is slightly more frequent but still uncommon (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Hilty 2003, Restall et al. 2006). It is uncommon to rare in Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana and Trinidad and Tobago (Restall et al. 2006). The taxon's range extends south through east Ecuador, north-east Peru and north-east Bolivia. It reaches south Brazil, where it has declined in areas of heavy deforestation, and further south to Paraguay. In north Argentina it is also known to have declined (del Hoyo et al. 1994).


This species mainly occurs in humid forest, although it is also known to occur near open areas in Venezuela's llanos (plains) and in low swamp forest at Petén, Guatemala. In Colombia it mainly occurs up to 1,200 m, but has been recorded as high as 1,800 m, and elsewhere it is known rarely to reach 3,000 m. It mainly hunts large prey, especially birds and mammals. It has an extended breeding season, with laying occurring in the dry season and fledging at the beginning of the rainy season (del Hoyo et al. 1994).  In Belize, all nests studied had a single young and the incubation period was 44-46 days. Fledging occurred at approximately 80 days (Phillips and Hatten 2013). The dependency period was up to 12 months; therefore nesting occurred every other year, at best (Phillips and Hatten 2013). Nest-sites were occupied multiple years and alternate nests were observed (Phillips and Hatten 2013).  


The primary threat to this species is accelerating deforestation in the Amazon basin, through which it is projected to lose up to 40% of its habitat (Soares-Filho et al. 2006, Bird et al. 2011). It is also susceptible to hunting and persecution, but is comfortable traversing fragmented landscapes and has a huge range (A. Lees in litt. 2011).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
None is known.

Conservation Actions Proposed

Expand the protected area network to effectively protect IBAs. Effectively resource and manage existing and new protected areas, utilising emerging opportunities to finance protected area management with the joint aims of reducing carbon emissions and maximizing biodiversity conservation. Conservation on private lands, through expanding market pressures for sound land management and preventing forest clearance on lands unsuitable for agriculture, is also essential (Soares-Filho et al. 2006).  In areas where selective logging occurs nest surveys should be conducted prior to cutting.


58-67 cm. Large, brown-and-white hawk-eagle. Black crown and occipital crest, with chestnut on the sides of the head and hindneck extending to sides of breast. Rest of underparts are white.Tail has three greyish brown bars. Yellow legs.


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N. & Symes, A.

Lees, A. & Panjabi, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Spizaetus ornatus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 01/07/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 01/07/2022.