Adult "dark" Red-tails without tail bands?

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 

I have been asked the question "do dark (rufous and dark-morph) Western Red-tailed Hawks always have multiple tail bands? The answer is no, and in fact, many lack multiple tail bands. The idea that dark birds seen on migration in the mid-west or eastern North America are actually Eastern (borealis) birds, has been tossed around. And one of the factors this thought was based on is that many lack multiple black bands on the tail as seen on Western birds. However, check out the Utah breeding birds in the photos below and note that they all lack obvious tail banding. And of course, Western light-morph adults lack tail bands quite often as well, and can have pale throats similar to Eastern (borealis) birds!

Just a note to clarify things, and hope you find this stuff as interesting as I do!!!!

Happy to share, "click" on photo to enlarge,

Accipiter Tail Tips...

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Sunday, May 26, 2013 

I have lots of accipiter posts I'd like to get to, but here is one I posted on <> a while ago, and a subject that is forever talked about. Accipiters will always be tricky, especially Sharp-shinned vs. Cooper's Hawk, since they look so similar. Many Sharpies have very rounded or slightly rounded tails (typically females), and some Cooper's have square-tipped tails for certain reasons (molt, feather wear, etc). Here are some examples ("click" image to enlarge). Also note how some Cooper's (especially males) can appear small-headed and stocky overall in certain poses or instances.

Using a single trait does not make for accurate accipiter identifications, it is a combination of traits, so don't get caught up on a single trait that "distracts" you from the rest of the bird. There is much to say about this group of hawks, so more to come.

Hope this helps...

Aberrant Plumaged Raptors

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Sunday, May 19, 2013 

There are lots of examples of birds that vary from the "norm", so I thought I would show a few raptors I have encountered with unusual plumages.....I have too many to show here and now so sorry, but hope this is interesting ("click" on images to enlarge).
An adult Red-tailed Hawk that nests in Utah with Harlan's-like whitsh mottling on the chest. I have seen several examples of Western Red-taileds with this trait.
Dilute plumaged juvenile Red-tailed Hawk from 1999 at the Goshute Mts., Nevada. Cream-colored birds such as this are better described as "dilute" than leucistic (which means white).
Adult borealis Red-tailed Hawk at Gunsight Mt., Alaska from April, 2009. Not an odd plumage, but significant to note that a fair number of borealis and calurus occur in Alaska.
Leucistic adult Harlan's Red-tail from Idaho (2004, left) and a recent photo of a bird that is possibly the same bird from Oklahoma (?).
Juvenile Merlin that lacks multiple tail bands, this occurs from time to time. Photo taken many years ago at Cape May Point, NJ.
Adult Rough-legged Hawk that could be considered an "intermediate" morph, photographed a few years ago in Utah in winter.
Juvenile Rough-legged Hawk that could be considered an "intermediate" morph, photographed a few years ago in Utah in winter.
Check out this juvenile dark-morph Swainson's Hawk with a white-based, dark-tipped tail? Photographed along the Wasatch Mts, in Utah one September day a ways back. Most likely an aberrant tail and not a hybrid. I have seen a few examples of this....
Note the dark chest on this juvenile Ferruginous do we explain this? A fairly dark head (and eye) for a juvenile as well. Is this an intermediate-morph, who knows?
An unusually heavily marked juvenile Broad-winged Hawk from the Keweenaw Peninsula, MI. These markings are purely juvenile, not adult markings due to molt, however, the primaries with dark tips on the right wing are new adult feathers.
Adult Broad-winged Hawk taken last week at the Keweenaw Peninsula, MI  with a white belly. This makes for a beautiful bird!
Juvenile Broad-winged Hawk from the Wasatch Mts., Utah with an adult-like tail. I have seen several examples of this and several juveniles with a dark trailing edge to the wings (similar to adults) but with juvenile body plumage. Why? I have no idea, just chalk it up to variation.
Juvenile Northern Goshawk from spring 1994 at Braddock Bay, NY. Why does it have a brown eye when it is supposed to have a pale yellowish eye?
Nearly completely dark Northern Harrier photographed in February 2008 at Farmington Bay, Utah. Of course I wish it were closer, but them's the breaks. Only 4 or 5 "dark" Harriers have been seen in North America.
Adult male Northern Harrier (Farmington Bay, winter 2004) with rufous highlights in the tail and upperwings coverts. Just an odd variant.
Juvenile Cooper's Hawk with dark streaks on the undertail coverts similar to happens. Photographed in October 2007 along the Wasatch Mts., Utah.
Adult Cooper's Hawk with white eye? Photographed at the Goshute Mts., Nevada several years ago.
Adult Cooper's Hawk (second-year) with unusual, widely-spaced barring on the underside from the Goshute Mts., Nevada September, 1998.

Ferruginous Hawk x Red-tailed Hawk Hybrid

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 

This is part of an older post from The Utah Birders Blog I wanted to share. It is a neat bird and worth a second look! Thanks again to Steve Christensen for sharing the photos with me. "Click" on photos to see larger versions

Hybridization between two separate raptor species is rare, but does occur. Typically, hybrids are the result of two similar species (from the same family) breeding together. I am aware of one Ferruginous x Red-tail mated pair in Utah with nestlings, one documented Ferruginous x Red-tail hybrid (which appears to be this same bird, but lack information regarding it), and several falconry hybrids. What makes this bird a hybrid and not a pure Red-tailed Hawk or Ferruginous Hawk? Simply put, the mixed traits of both species.

Overall the bird shows rufous underwing coverts, rufous leggings, and a prominent yellow gape like a Ferruginous Hawk. However, the tail pattern is red with multiple black bands and a broad sub-terminal band like a Red-tailed Hawk. Some Ferruginous Hawks can have nearly all-red tails but they lack symmetrical bands (pg. 67 Hawks From Every Angle, pg. 90 Hawks at a Distance). The remiges (primaries and secondaries) are Red-tail-like showing obvious banding, a broad, dark sub-terminal, and prominent dark wing tips. The brown color to the head is more similar to Red-tailed Hawk as well, adult Ferruginous have a slightly paler brownish, or grayish head. The bird lacks the dark brownish-black patagial marks that Red-tailed Hawk shows. The wing shape seems a bit lengthy and slim for a Red-tail and more like a Ferruginous Hawk, but that is subjective, difficult to say from the photos, and possibly inaccurate.

Jerry Liguori

Any Thoughts on Raptors?

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Saturday, May 11, 2013 

I was wondering if there was a topic on raptors or raptor ID that anyone would like to discuss? Let me know, and I'll try to blog about it and hopefully shed some light. Thanks for any responses, and for checking out the blog....("click" to enlarge Zone-tailed Hawk photo).


Cooper's Hawks with "skinny legs?"

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 

How many Cooper's Hawk photos have you seen identified as Sharp-shinned Hawks based on their "skinny legs?" I know I have seen too many! Do Sharp-shinned Hawks have skinny legs….of course. But, Cooper's can have skinny legs as well (especially males). Here are a few photos of Cooper's Hawks, check out the legs on each and decide for yourself if you would be able to ID them based on leg thickness only. Besides, there are many other traits that are more useful in separating the 2 species (i.e. head shape and size, plumage, tail length and shape, etc.). Oh yeah, be careful of using the large-eyed vs. small-eyed look as well, it can be tricky. "Click" on photos to enlarge.

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