Common raptor in open spaces in the high Andes and southern South America. Large, relatively broad-winged, and short-tailed raptor. As the name suggests, plumage is quite variable. Adults range from clean white to dark gray and rufous below with a gray or rufous back. Always look for the white tail with a black band near the tip. Juveniles are more confusing, usually dark brown above and buffy below with a variable amount of dark streaking below. Juveniles can also be all dark brown (but this morph is rare). Compare with Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, which is larger and broader-winged, with young birds usually darker than most Variable Hawks. Occurs from sea level up to over 4,500 m in the Andes, typically in open agricultural land, desert, or paramo, but also ranging over wooded areas.