Saturday, February 5, 2011

red-shouldered hawk
Buteo lineatus

I'm amazed at the variation of red-shouldered hawks, even among my own pictures. I could be wrong with this ID, as I think I've seen 2-3 different kinds of hawks around home in the past couple of months. They're often being harassed by crows and in flight they look very different from each other in size and shape. Don Roberson lists numerous hawks and related for Monterey County.

I really should get a new bird book, as I've finally decided the one I have isn't so good. The reason why I've been putting off getting one of the recommended books (National Geographic or Sibley) is silly: there's a little part of me that suspects that once I start really getting into birds, then I'll want to join all those bird groups, then I'll want better photographs of birds for ID, then I'll want to get a better camera and binoculars, then I'll want all the trappings of nature photography (lenses, tripods, external hard-drives), then I'll end up hauling a bunch of crap everywhere (that could potentially be seized by a government, see BBB), then I'll end up not really enjoying actually hiking, then I'll be spending even more time behind the computer looking at photographs, etc. So, I almost simply do not want to start down that path...

ps 02/16/11 - I queried Don Roberson yesterday after receiving a couple comments questioning the ID of this post. He's been kind enough to answer my e-mails about bird IDs. I really try not to pester the experts too much with my incessant questions. With many thanks he's given me permission to post what he wrote in a reply e-mail. Here's what he says, "...it is often difficult to identify a hawk from a single photo, and especially one in which the tail, wings, and back cannot be seen. However, I think this is an adult Red-shouldered. I can see white barring on the rufous things, which rules out Red-tailed (among others). Further, our usual Red-tails have a prominent white chest. [Some dark morphs of Red-tail, which are scarce locally, can be dark-chested.]" Don goes on to say, "I think adult Red-shouldereds look pretty much alike, but the variation you mention is in immature stages of plumage. Further, there is huge differences in Red-shouldered Hawk between our local California population and populations in the east, and another population in Florida (which looks very different). There has been some talk of separating our California birds as a separate species, and to revive the old name given to it over 100 years ago, Red-bellied Hawk." So, there you have it folks. Thank you, everyone, for your interest.

7 comments:

Imperfect and tense said...

The common buzzard in the UK, Buteo buteo, has very variable plumage from very dark to very pale. What chance do we stand, eh?!

Your observations regarding birding paraphernalia are all too accurate :o(

Janet said...

There really is nothing else that could be a red-shouldered hawk in terms of buteo-shaped bird with its chest/belly color, distinctive shoulder coloring, and in flight seen from below its crescent "windows".
Having said that....the beauty of a good field guide, like any good book, is solitary enjoyment - it need never lead to the equivalent of joining a book club or anything. Tho there is one slim book I recommend - your UK readers may recognize the name - How To Be A Bad Birder by Simon Barnes.

texwisgirl said...

I was just going to compliment you on capturing this bird so nicely (without it being dead) and then you launched into your diatribe about bird books, clubs, camera equip, etc. Ha! SO TRUE! Addictive. But you did great on this one!

texwisgirl said...

I've never seen a red-shouldered be that deeply red/dark. One of my better bird id books (ALL the Birds of North America - American Bird Conservancy's Field Guide) shows various versions of the hawks and it almost looks like the 'dark version' of a red-tailed hawk in this book. But I'm not a good i.d.er so I'll defer to your choice! :)

Neil said...

Based on relative proportions (head to body, beak to head) and coloration I'd second texwisgirl's suggestions of B. jamaicensis. I've seen some dark red-shouldered but never any this dark, and I would expect to see at least a hint of white on the wings though a red-tailed could show that too. I could well be wrong, that's just my 2c.

Nature ID (Katie) said...

twg and Neil, I e-mailed Don Roberson, linked above and author of a couple local bird books, about this ID. He's confirmed it's a Buteo lineatus and NOT B. jamaicensis. I've asked for permission to copy his e-mail and am still waiting to hear back. His explanation is very interesting. I'll add a postscript as soon as I receive his okay to post his words on my blog.

Neil, your blogs are intriguing. You're out of Davis?

Neil said...

Cool! I look forward to reading Don's rationale, hawks can be tricky. I'm a grad student at UC Davis, but actually live in East Palo Alto right now - long story. Thanks for the kind words, microecos is sort of on cement blocks right now but hopefully I can start it back up soon.