Guess That Hawk
Can you identify the two hawks?
October 18, 2009


On October 13, 2009, we had a very good hawk watch at Jo Hayes Vista and saw a hundred raptors, including two bald eagles and an osprey. At one point during the day, two hawks rose from the valley below. My immediate assumption was that they were a pair of red-tailed hawks; however, when I checked my photos, I realized that one of the hawks appeared quite different. Unfortunately, the LCD screen of my camera didn't allow enough detail for a good identification then and there (even with two experienced watchers along with Sue and me).

At home, I couldn't identify the second hawk at all and succeeded only in confusing myself. I dispatched three photos to the State College birders list, and two hawk experts identified the hawk for me.

I was impressed.

Anyway, following are the same three photos. Can you identify the mystery hawk? (Hint: Belly band.)

I don't intend to frustrate anyone, and the answer and reasons can be seen by scrolling to the end of this page.

Identify the two hawks

The second photo.
Identify the two hawks

The third and deciding photo.
Identify the two hawks

The answer appears below.  































The first photo shows a red-tailed hawk (left) and red-shouldered hawk (right); the second has red-shouldered (left) and red-tailed (right); and the third has red-tailed (left) and red-shouldered (right).

Both are immatures (one of the reasons identification is more difficult, although in the first two photos the belly band of the red-tail is an easy ID.

The red-shouldered hawk ID was tough because its chest is uncharacteristically light. The qualifying features are a light-colored crescent close to the end of each wing (in the third photo), black-tipped wings, and a slimmer body.

If you like, here are two of my pages showing somewhat clearer photos of a red-shouldered hawk and a red-tailed hawk.

Photo note: I used a Pentax K200D, with the SMC reflex 1000mm lens on October 13, 2009.  

Jacks Mountain Hawkwatch   |   Hawks from early fall 2008   |   Birthday eagles

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