Broad-winged Hawks are returning to Vermont since departing New England last September for their principal wintering range in northern South America. The first report of 2017 was on April 11 from Putney. Since then sightings have steadily increased. This is our smallest breeding hawk of the genus Buteo with an average total length of 15 inches followed closely in size by the Red-shouldered Hawk (16 inches) and the Red-tailed Hawk (19 inches).
This is a relatively common hawk nesting in woodland habitats. Its diet is varied consisting of small mammals, frogs, snakes, lizards, small birds, large insects, and earthworms. Today I encountered a Broad-winged Hawk picking earthworms off the surface of a paved residential driveway (photos follow). That the hawk was eating earthworms wasn't as much as a surprise as where it was feeding. The bird was observed consuming no less than a half dozen worms in an environment more expected of foraging robins. After having migrated as much as 4,000+ miles on average between winter and summer ranges no doubt energy reserves are depleted and with nesting season approaching getting back into prime physical and physiological condition are critical. Today's rainy and cool temperatures (40s) may not be prime conditions for encountering small mammals but earthworms are easy pickings at least for this hawk.