"Bleached" Raptors

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Monday, July 8, 2013 

I love when people send me hawk photos…the more the merrier. It allows me to see birds and plumage variants I never would have seen otherwise. This spring and early summer, there seemed to be an inordinate amount of faded and molting birds posted on the internet and making their way into my inbox, which prompted me to post this blog entry.

A word of caution, birds can look odd when faded, worn, or molting! They often look pale-headed, and washed out (bleached) overall, especially the upperside. This makes juvenile Broad-winged Hawks appear more Gray Hawk-like on the face, Red-tails more difficult to assess to race, ageing eagles more difficult, and the list goes on…. Here is an example of a bird Steve Mlodinow shared with me several weeks ago from Colorado. Note how a normally dark bird (particularly the head) such as this juvenile from last year can appear very pale in spring/summer.

I don't want to get too detailed here, just like to keep it easy to digest. And of course, if anyone has questions about a hawk they photographed that looks odd, feel free to contact me and I'll see if I can decipher it.

Update: Here is a bird Cathy Sheeter sent me today. A Red-tailed Hawk from Colorado molting into its first adult plumage, note how pale the head is from fading! Also, check out Cathy's award-winning art

Anonymous Derek Lyon said...

It's just amazing how a normally dark bird can appear so different! When looking at the photos, without reading your comments first, I would have said it's a juvie Krider's RT

July 9, 2013 at 6:01 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Hi Derek

Glad you said that, Krider's is exactly what most people think when they see washed out birds!

July 9, 2013 at 6:36 AM  
Blogger Mia McPherson said...

Wow, that bird does look very light! I am delighted that when I am in doubt I know I can see you images for help.

July 9, 2013 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

I appreciate whee photographers like Steve and you share images for all of us to see!

July 9, 2013 at 10:57 AM  

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