The ornate hawk-eagle is most often seen soaring over the forest, with short butterfly-like wing flutters interspersing gentle circular glides, as it calls with a loud whistle (5). When perched, it is far more inconspicuous (5), an important component of its efficient hunting strategy. From a perch it will scan the surrounding forest and ground for suitable prey (2), which includes a wide range of birds, including macaws, parrots, toucans and chickens; mammals, such as kinkajous, agoutis, squirrels and rats; and occasionally reptiles, such as iguanas and snakes (2). There are also records of this eagle preying on primates, with the remains of a squirrel monkey and a tamarin being found in a nest (7).
The ornate hawk-eagle has a rather long courtship period, which begins one to two months before egg-laying and involves aerial displays and calling (2). The nests of this species are difficult to spot, as they are typically situated high in the forest (7), protected from potential predators on the ground (2). The nest is constructed from sticks, measuring up to 1.7 metres across (7), and it is into this structure that the female lays a single egg (2). The egg is incubated for around 48 days, mostly by the female (2), and when the young hatches, the male will hunt and deliver the food to the female who will then feed the chick (2). When the young is about three weeks old, the female will begin hunting herself, and when the chick fledges at between 66 and 93 days, the female will then ignore her offspring (2).
The male then takes over the rest of the care and will bring food to the chick until it can hunt for itself. The young ornate hawk-eagle begins learning its sophisticated hunting technique by attacking fruit, diving and snatching at the food to practice this art. It is often not until the juvenile is a year old that it can catch live prey, at which point the chick will leave the nest and territory of the parents (8). The female is thought to use this time, free of any parental care, to recuperate before she breeds again (8), but even with this recovery time, ornate hawk-eagles are believed to only breed every third year (2).