Broad-winged Hawk Tidbit

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Friday, July 12, 2013 

Here is a tidbit I'd like to share….its not worthy of a full article so I'd like to show it here, and that is why I love to blog! Just remember to give credit where it is due…I already saw an instance where someone quoted me without credit. I'm nice enough to share unpublished findings, so please credit my blog if appropriate.

Check out these adult Broad-winged Hawk tails. Notice that the outer tail feathers on the first 3 birds is juvenile-like? These are actually adult feathers, and this is typical of Broad-wingeds (and adults of other species, i.e male Kestrel, Cooper's, Sharpie, many RT's, etc.), where the outer tail feathers are slightly different in pattern. We know these are not retained juvenile feathers since these feathers are not the last ones to drop out. Check out the bottom pic, and note how those outer tail feathers are similar to the rest of the tail…just goes to show that almost no rule is 100%, but if you know what to look for, you won't get fooled. The tail in the top photo is less "white and black" than the other adults…another oddity that occurs sometimes.

Also, in some birds (such as Northern Harrier), the central tail feathers differ than the rest of the tail...may be another post.

Blogger Bryce said...

Keep blogging like this. It's exactly what I want to see!

July 13, 2013 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Absolutely Bryce

Glad you like it!

July 13, 2013 at 4:45 PM  
Anonymous Justin Roussen said...

That is a neat "tidbit". Thank you Jerry for sharing things we would never see otherwise. I am amazed at your depth of knowledge and so happy to see you blogging!

July 14, 2013 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Hi Justin, thank you for the nice comment. I love blogging, so I will definitely keep it going! Glad you find it interesting.

July 14, 2013 at 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Bill R. said...

yes, a cool factoid, please keep sharing!!!!

July 15, 2013 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

I will Bill, thank you.

And its nice to have people like Step Wilson share their photos! His were much nicer than my old slides

July 15, 2013 at 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes Jerry, generous of you to share stuff. Especially about raptors because let's face it, they are the coolest birds!

July 17, 2013 at 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Derek Lyon said...

Your post got me thinking ... the only BW I've ever seen with a tail like that is a photo on the cover of the little spiral bound notebook for Hawk Cliff. It's the same, mostly adult tail with juvie feathers at the sides. It was a banded bird too. Makes me wonder how old the birds actually are, and if it's the younger, less wary birds that're the ones that get caught the most.

July 17, 2013 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Good comment. Who knows what the ratio is as far as how many adults are in their first year of adulthood vs older adults that get caught and banded. There's not enough data to know with Broad-winged. It seems that younger adults (and juvs of course) get caught more often than older ones in all species, but that's just my impression of what I have seen.

Broad-winged is an interesting case because of the tail pattern that can be confusing. Those outer juvenile-like tail feathers could easily be mistaken for retained juvenile feathers.

July 18, 2013 at 6:09 AM  
Anonymous Ron Dudley said...

A fascinating bit of raptor lore, Jerry.

July 19, 2013 at 4:39 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Thanks always

July 19, 2013 at 4:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post and fantastic photos, especially for those of us who mainly experience Broadwings at migrations time by the hundreds or even thousands and at ridiculous altitudes and distances. Rich in Texas

July 19, 2013 at 4:01 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

And that's a whole 'nother ball game, and tons of fun!!!!!

Thanks for the comment Rich

July 19, 2013 at 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting blog article. And, I think they are fantastic photos for someone who sees these hawks in their nesting area (in NE Ohio).

It would be wonderful to get to see these hawks up close like the people in the photos.

Does Step Wilson have a photography website or a Flickr account?

Ken in NE Ohio

July 22, 2013 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Hello Ken

I don't believe Step has a photo site. He is a liscensed bander who studies hawks and that is how he has the opportunity to see these amazing birds up close.

There are hawk migrations sites and banding stations in WI, MI, PA, and upstate NY if you ever get the chance to visit. You might be able to see a hawk up close if the banding projects are going on.

July 22, 2013 at 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Well, it is great that you can post some of Step's photos here.

I would like to see a raptor banding session. I have been to events here in NE Ohio for banding for smaller birds. It is wonderful to see the birds.

I have heard that there is a bottleneck for migrating raptors near the lake in southeast Michigan. And, I have read about Hawk Mountain in PA.



July 22, 2013 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Yes, southeast MI is amazing, you can see thousands to hundreds of thousands of Broad-wings in a day!!!!!!!!!

July 22, 2013 at 12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jerry, are the outer retained adult feathers, from their first adult plumage?

Great info!
Thanks, Pete Gustas

July 24, 2013 at 5:33 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Excellent question Pete!

They are not retained from their first adult plumage...the tail pattern is variable at any age and those wouldn't be the feathers they would retain after their second molt.

July 24, 2013 at 7:07 AM  
Blogger L. Broderick. WestCountyHawkWatch said...

Worthy of a full article.... as I was fooled again. As much as I love to sing that famous "the WHO" song..... I continued to get fooled again, so I have called a dozen of so Harriers (transitional male, i.e. turning from juv to adult) in the last decade, due to a few tail feathers being grey and sooty black..... hits head against the wall some more.... so I guess just stick to the cinnamon / punkin trait to make a juvenile a juvenile, and keep an adult male an adult male, an adult female an adult female and don't try to split hairs (feathers)

November 22, 2016 at 1:59 PM  

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