Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Horror Movie in the Field...

Enter the Villain, an evil hawk who wants to mess with me....

As I was planning to be at Tres Rios early, I saw this hawk along Broadway and I thought it looked interesting.  Regardless, it is interesting, but is it the interesting I was hoping for?  A chunky dark-morph buteo with a short-looking bill?  Yes, it requires immediate scrutinizing...

I thought, "could this possibly be a Rough-legged Hawk?"

My quarry and I played an obnoxious game of chase.  I shouldn't say I, I didn't sign up for the game.  This bird gave me the impression of being a Rough-legged Hawk, and he perched like one too.  Rough-legged Hawks like to perch on thin perches, such as twigs and such..

As you can see, he also has whitish lore areas, which is a good field mark for a dark-morph Roughie.  I was in hope, but I wasn't holding my breath.  There always are those demon variable Red-tailed Hawks such as Harlan's and more to go along with every field identification problem with hawks.  But this one had me jumping, it appeared to have black wrists when it continued to play "it's" fun game of chase.

I thought for sure I had a takeaway Rough-legged Hawk after this sequence.  I've seen this bird before, but I've always longed to find one in Maricopa County.  In prior times, I had a likely Rough-legged Hawk that painfully got away.  This one drew in flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds also.

As I took photos and studied the bird in my scope, it all seemed like this was the real deal, a RLHA.  The bird's tarsus appeared to be feathery, he was fat, he perched on a thin twig, la di di, la di da.

And then the horror movie took place, and it really showed me how deceptive birds can really be a lot of times.  As the bird kicked up again and took flight, it's wrists didn't seem to be as dark as they appeared in flight from my earlier photos..

And yet again, then they did...

But at this turn, the tail pattern seemed too weird for Rough-legged..

And then, things got really jacked up..

The bird's legs weren't so short once it perched on the branch again..facing me.  

After the excitement, I realized my bird was most likely a dark-morph Harlan's Hawk.  I went back to my truck and had a tantrum.  I'm being 100% serious too.  I threw a temper tantrum.   I was tricked, and I really am owed a Rough-legged Hawk now for Maricopa County.  Doing research, some of the reasons this isn't a Rough-legged Hawk is because the white on the lores/forehead area almost touch the eye, where they wouldn't quite in Rough-legged Hawk.  And as shown, this guy really doesn't have the dark "wrists" as he appeared to earlier.  His legs aren't so feathery and his talons look pretty big.  The tail pattern is wrong on that shot.  Conclusion:  In most ways I wish I didn't encounter this bird, but in other ways, experiences like this do make us better birders in the long run.  I have a lot to learn.  AND THE REAL CONCLUSION:  It's probably not a Harlan's Hawk either, but a just a dark-morph young Red-tail.  Harlan's or Dark-morph Red-tail, it's still a freaking Red-tailed Hawk.  

For a little more fun on this bird, the white in the lores seem to be away from the eyes in this bird..

And in this picture too..

Here's an earlier picture of the bird taking off also.  It's legs don't seem so feathery, but those talons seem very small.  And notice the red flash...it's a horrible pic but the tail flash is annoyingly red.  Ah, you stupid Red-tail.


  1. let the bird be the bird, bro.

  2. I really enjoyed this series of pictures. I really appreciate that you shared it. Bird identification really is an art and it helps to have more than a couple of pictures. The pictures of the hawk in flight were awesome.Carol Jones from Facebook

  3. While I'm sorry that it wasn't your Rough-legged Hawk of Maricopa County, like you were hoping, I couldn't help but chuckle! You've got a real knack for telling a story. Always a pleasure to read, and always helpful with bird identification!