Monday, February 18, 2008

Sticky Hawk ID

A local photographer/birder Jason, a guy I have run into here and there around town, sent me an email yesterday about a hawk he saw.

This bird was eating from a fresh deer carcass at the entrance of Caesar Creek State Park. At first, he thought it was a juvenile red tailed hawk. Some others chimed in and disagreed. They thought it was a juvenile red shouldered hawk. I looked at it, and the more I looked, the less I was sure.

(Jason's photo) (and if you want to be jealous, go look at his Flickr photos)

At first glance, I thought, "Oh, that's a young RT." But then I looked at the eyes. Those are dark eyes, not the light eyes you would see on a juvenile. The streaking on the chest and flanks of the bird are consistent with a juvenile RS.

Let's look at a red shouldered hawk (photo by me):
red shouldered in the yard
The tail of this bird (an adult) is banded in black and white. A juvenile has dark and light brown bands.

And we all know what an adult red tail looks like (my photo):
rehab RT tail feathers
That's fairly unmistakable.

Let's look at the tail again (Jason's photo):

The tail of this bird has bands that are thinner than what you would expect on a juvenile RS. And the tail of a juvenile RT has wide light brown bands with thin dark brown bands. And that reddish tinge to the feathers...both on the tail and the shoulders.

An interesting-looking bird, huh? Reminds me of a bird posted about on Birdchick.
My strongest impression is that this is a red shouldered hawk, but I still see a lot to wonder about that. The tail is what is sticking with me.
Give us your thoughts!


Mary said...

Whaaat? If you aren't sure, you know I'd fail. I can't even guess on this one. Nice looking hawk, anyway. I'll be back to see what others think.

Grace, Every Day said...

My thoughts? Well, IMHO, that's a bird. A sort of brownish one. A brownish sort of brown bird, with two legs and wings. Winged creature. It's a winged creature, rather hawkish looking.

I think, actually, that it's a bird. I'm not sure, though.

And I think he's happily getting his money's worth on the 'today's special' part of the menu.

I hope that helped!

((((slinking off merrily, loving all them bird people...))))

Anonymous said...

Looks like an RS to me but what do I know? Everything looks like an RS to me today! :)

nina said...

You know I'm not the one with raptor experience, but to go to my reference, Sibley shows a juvenile RS with very narrow, brown bands on the tail. Even the white supercilium seems a good match. Check it out, p.117

Amy said...

I'm not going to venture a guess either but I agree with Grace that it seems to be a bird. (cute answer!) I think you may be onto something with the juvenile RS though, by process of elimination.

Carolyn H said...

I'm going to go with red-tailed hawk on this one. To me, the tail bands on this bird do not look like the tail bands of a juvenile red-shouldered hawk. As far as the eyes being dark, well, if you look at a larger view of the second photo, the eyes don't look dark to me, so I think that's a function of the lighting.

Of course, I could be wrong, but that's my 2 cents.

Carolyn H.

dguzman said...

Uh.... a hungry raptor?

Nice pics!

Susan Gets Native said...

Loved all your smart ass comments!
I have to go with my original ID...a juv RSHA. But it just looked....weird...

Kathiesbirds said...

I have little experience with red-shouldered hawks, I'm still getting use to the southwest version of red-tails! Juvenilles are always hard. Heaven forbid they should make it easy on us! Good luck with this one. Great photos though.

Julie Zickefoose said...

I'm with you, Susan. It looks like an imm. redshoulder to me. The big teardrops on the flanks are one tip-off. I go with the overall impression, though, and that is a smallish, compact buteo with a delicate bill and large eyes for its size. You can see the fine upper bill in the photo where it's choking down a bit of venison.
It also lacks the white "backpack straps" that virtually all plumages of redtails have. Viewing the last photo blown up, you can see a bright red shoulder peeking out from beneath the scapulars. I like RSHA for this one.

Susan said...

Just wondering if anyone will dare to disagree with JZ - I know I wouldn't!