Monday, February 15, 2010

Red-tailed Hawks

Winter is a great time to spot hawks (and eagles) along rural roads in west-central Wisconsin. 

The other day, I averaged one Red-tailed Hawk per mile as I headed north towards Durand on State Rd 25 (and a lone Pileated Woodpecker).  It was the same heading south towards Nelson.

Unless I see an obvious "orange" tail, identification isn't automatic for me.  I have to stop and think.  There are so many differences between juveniles and adults, color morphs and races.  Plumage variation is the rule with Buteo jamaicensis.

 Red-tailed Hawk

Despite the whitish tail, this one was "easy" for me (note the diagnostic dark belly band and patagial marks).

Over the past few months, I've gotten to know 4 red-tails (and one rough-legged) pretty well.  I can actually predict which trees in which they're are likely to be perched - morning and afternoon.
I don't, however, leave home without a copy of Wheeler and Clark's Photographic Guide to North American Raptors in my car.

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