Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Swainson's Hawk retraction

So a few other birders who know more about raptor ID than I do have come to the conclusion that the bird I photographed in Leamington the other day is most likely a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk, not a Swainson's as I had originally thought. Some ID features include the dark patagial bar that is somewhat visible on some of the lightened photos, a faint belly band, and relatively broad wingtips. I am not sure why the bird appears to have dark flight feathers but it may just be an artifact of the light!

To be honest when I first observed the bird, it did not give me the impression of a Red-tailed Hawk. It seemed too long-winged, narrow-winged, and long-tailed (plus of course the two-toned wing that recalls Swainson's Hawk). But, it was a very brief field observation (that was backlit) and so I am not sure how accurate my impressions of the bird in the field were.

Right from the start, I had problems with the faint belly band that was visible and the relatively broad wingtips. I convinced myself that the belly band was an artifact of the bad light, but I couldn't justify the broad wingtips. Swainson's Hawk is supposed to have relatively pointed wingtips - like a Broad-winged Hawk with longer wings.

At any rate, that's the way it goes sometimes. Here's hoping the next SWHA that I call is actually one.

I guess that's how you learn right?


  1. Hello! I recently started reading your wonderful blog. I have a website where I post some of the photos of birds that I have seen for my Dad, who finds it easier to go to a website than to download the pics. Anyhow I can certainly relate to having some bird identification difficulties. Here is a link to a bird we saw last winter and I wonder what your guess would be as to the identity. Any thoughts?
    Leslie Catling

  2. Hi Leslie,

    The bird you photographed is a dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk. They are an arctic species that winters in southern Ontario. Nice photos!