Friday, January 23, 2009

Stymied Again!

Help! Help! Somebody, help!

Okay, so I'm flaunting my newbie ignorance once again, but here goes. I recently saw this beautiful hawk in flight, waaaaaaaaaaaay over across a field, and I snapped a few quick shots before he ducked out of sight.

The primary problem is, my first onsite attempt at identifying him went way astray once I had a chance to look at the pictures. My first guess was a Swainson's Hawk (mostly due to size, the light belly and patch between the wings and tail, and also due to the location). But once I compared my shot to other images I could find of Swainson'ses (Swainsons'?), it didn't look like the same bird.

click image to enlarge
Please click to see larger image

Second problem: that was the only one of my quickly snapped shots that was even close to decent. The rest were a lot more like to this one (which I include here only because it at least sort of shows the coloration of the tail and wings):

click to enlarge if you want to, but it's not gonna look any better!
One of these days maybe you guys will be able to learn me my birds. In the meantime... help?

UPDATE: For those few who (like me) didn't know, it turns out I found me a female Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus), also known as a "Marsh Hawk." (White rump = Harrier. Gotta remember that!)

Thanks so much to my quick responders / teachers (Dawn, Kathie and Susan) for the help on this one! I'm learning, guys! Slowly, but I'm a'learning.


dAwN said...

Hi..looks like you have the Northern Harrier.or marsh hawk....tell tale white on tail..

Kathiesbirds said...

You have a female Northern Harrier, a.k.a. a "Marsh hawk" for their habit of soaring low over marsh and meadow. The white rump is distinctive along with the long tail and the "Harrier" type flight which is low and slow with wings held in a shallow V. The males are smaller and prettier in my opinion with gray bodies, white bellies and black wingtips. They still have the same white rump patch. All harriers have an almost owl-like facial disc. If you get to see one again, check it out!

Susan Gets Native said...

When you see that beaming white rump on a bird that size, you got yourself a Harrier.
(Juveniles look very much like females, btw.)
It's the hawk who wants to be an owl (they use that round facial disc to help them locate juicy mice and voles)

Mckay K said...

Well Kyle, you got the help you needed. All I can add is that it is a magnificent looking bird in flight.

KatDoc said...

Dawn, Kathie and Susan beat me to it, and gave you the two main field marks to the Northern Harrier - the white rump patch, visible in all ages and genders, and the owl-like facial disc. Also, as Kathie points out, the flight (low over a field, with wings in a "V") is classic Harrier.

In your second photo, even though it's fuzzy, you have everything you need. Long tail rules out the group of hawks called Buteos (red-tailed, red-shouldered, rough-legged, Swainson's, etc) and makes you think Accipiter (like Coops and sharpies), but the wings are too long. Then, the white rump patch jumps out at you. It is like a tag saying "Hello, my name is Northern Harrier."

You're doing great, Kyle! Raptors can be tricky, especially western ones. Keep it up, you'll get it.

Sweet bird!


Anonymous said...

I am a novice birder and raptors are difficult. I wish the Coopers and Sharpies that come into the yard would wear little name tags. In flight.. that is even more of a challenge..

2sweetnsaxy said...

I knew someone would let you know what that was. I posted a red shouldered hawk yesterday that just happened to land near me.
Ain't it cool!? :-)