Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ferruginous Hawk?

This morning, still hoping for some unusual birds driven down the mountain by yesterday's blizzard, I've been working on ways to feed small birds closer to the a way to deter the blasted starlings and Red-winged blackbirds which seem to desimate all feeders in minutes.

I don't mind the big Black-billed magpies at all, and have a special flat-bed feeder where I toss up kibbled dog food and peanutes in the shell, along with smaller nuts and fruits that chickadees and Blue jays seem to like, too. While the starlings will polish off several entire suet-cakes in a day, the magpies apprently find it difficult to hang their big selves from the little cages. At any-rate, they prefer the dog-food, which the starlings apparently find too big to handle.

I like helping the magpies out; they're beautiful birds which were seriously affected by West Nile Disease. Besides, I'm on a mission now, having discovered a friend shoots them! Yes, he believes it's okay because he says they're preditors and a rancher can kill preditors. [sigh] I suspect he doesn't really hang them dead, upside down by one leg, to scare off others of their kind; but he'd like to. He says they peck out the eyes and soft tissue under the hooves of newborn calves, making it impossible for them to stand. I've seen one eat a mouse, but never attack a cow; but then, I'm no rancher. In my mind, this is just another reason to keep Livestock Guardian Dogs. LGDs, like my Zeus, run off preditors...including Magpies. He hates 'em and believes they do not belong around our feeders. Yes, LGDs will even protect chickens, if that's their charge.

Anyway, while messing around with suet cages so that the woodpeckers will get half a chance at them, I happened to see a very large, white 'blob' high up in the trees. I generally don't wear my glasses around the house, and so had to grab the binoculars...and then hurried out with my little camera. I'm fairly sure this is a Ferruginous Hawk. Last year, about this time, I'd seen what I thought might be one, they're HUGE, but it turned out, apparently, to be a smaller Swainson's Hawk. You can see that story here.

This time, however, I notice that the 'bib', so evident on a Swainson's is lacking here. The bird has a dark head and very light breast. It even seems to have the more rounded tail, at rest, than did the Swainson's. I wonder what you think? I'm sorry to say I scared it off with my photographing, and as I saw it get ready to fly, I tried for a last shot...and didn't make it; no sighting of long, feathered legs. Dammit. Still, having said all this and then reading what Wiki has to say about the big bird and seeing the photos there...I'm lost. The bird today didn't seem as large as the bird last time (which I thought was HUGE), but I am getting confused with all the different morphs and photographs of the birds while young. I wounder if the bird last time was a young Ferruginous. [big sigh]

Still, staying on the lookout, I just saw the tiny little, tan-variety White-throated Sparrow again. Cool, huh?


DJB's Photo Adventures said...

I think that your hawk is a Red-tailed Hawk because the head isn't oversized for the body and it is awfully dark head which should have some white in it. Have a look at some of my raptor posts and see what you think. Debbie
I also saw my first of the season grackles yesterday!

Beverly said...

Well, right off the bat I got two votes (one to my e-mail) that say Red-tailed Hawk. That certainly would explain the smaller size!

Thanks so much for your comment, I appreciate your visits. I have a bunch of books and haunt the 'images' part of Google...and still I have trouble with all the morphs; light and dark.

I saw my first Common Grackle yesterday too...big ol' big-beaked, yellowed eyed thang is back today. Sometimes I get the Boat-tails!

Thanks again...

Beverly said...

Hmmmmmm...this just in:

It's a Red-tailed Hawk. Ferruginous Hawk would have some white mixed with the brown hea and an extended yellow gape line. A Ferruginous would also have conspicuous feathered chaps.

While I mentioned on the blog that I didn't see it's legs, I'm looking as I write, at a photograph in Ted Floyd's new Smithsonian Field Guide...and it sure does look like the Light-morph Adult Ferruginous (to the legs). While I understand all Red-tails are not red-tailed, aren't their breasts generally darker than the photo I took? Even juviniles and Light-morphed Red-tailes seem darker breasted than this bird.'s yet another lousy photo; sorry.

Oh...Sibley's book shows a Southwestern Red-tailed drawing that looks very much like what I saw...a juvenile (sans red tail.) I'm practically on the New Mexico boarder, so perhaps that is what it is!

I have so much to learn!

Connie Kogler said...

I'm going to concur, Red-tailed Hawk.

Beverly said...

Thanks Connie!

I guess I need to concur...not a single vote, and there were several others to my e-mail box, came in with anything other than a vote to Red-tailed Hawk.

Shows to go ya...that bird sure does have some diversity (and I have a LOT to learn!)


Debbie said...

Glad you figured out what it was. I was wondering.

Beverly said...

Yeah, and funny; I’ve read before that any hawk you are likely to see in Colorado…has a pretty good chance of being a Red-tailed. I guess they are pretty prevalent here. Having said that…there are so many other, more unlikely to be seen, hawks…I keep hoping!

I think this was a matter of wishful thinking…again! LOL

Deb, thanks for stopping by, and thanks to everybody who helped me with this!

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Anything's cool, huh, Beverly.
And, I'm another to be frustrated with all the juvenile forms and morphs out there.

I consider it a fine day just to be out in it.

Beverly said...

Hi Nina, nice to 'see' you here! I couldn't agree with you more; it's always wonderful to be outside.

I thought of you the other day. The snow had melted enough to consider filling another bird-bath at the far end of the yard. After I cleaned it out and filled it, I returned a day or two later to re-fill it and found small, pea-sized black bugs living in there. I've always seen them in my ponds and such, but never a bird bath! I wonder if they fly...but have yet to discover what they are.

That would be why I like your blog so, you are as bad as I am...always asking 'what' or 'why'...and always so interested in the beautiful world of nature. LOL, you always say it so much better than I do, though; such a poet!

Yvonne Rathbone said...

It's always so hard to tell with coloring, but I'm not seeing the tell-tale belly band of a Red Tail. I haven't had much chance to id Ferrugs in the wild, but the males I've met up close as a wildlife volunteer weren't that much bigger than a big Swainson's. I would have to see patagial bars to commit to a Red Tail id. I'd say keep your eyes open for this guy (if it's a small Ferrug, it's going to be male.)

Beverly said...

Thanks for that, Yvonne; that so very pale belly stumps me too.

Perhaps I should just let it go and realize I'm not going to ID every single bird I see.

Thanks for visiting!!!