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Old Thursday 19th January 2006, 03:44   #1
autrac
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Question Red-tailed hawk with pure white underside?

Well, I'm new at this (birding and posting!) so forgive me if what I've asked is all too obvious. View out my window is of Lake Allegan in Allegan, Michigan, which is in western Mich. not far from Lake Michigan. The lake is part of the Kalamazoo River. I photo'd a bird I can't identify with my several books and thru internet photo search. I'm looking from quite a distance so sizing is hard, but it seems to be about 2/3 the size of the bald eagles that also favor the same perching location on an island in the lake. Head and back/wings are brown, with white highlights, and tail from back view is dark red/brown, squared off at the bottom. I'd guess red-tailed hawk, but what's confusing me is this bird's body is completely white viewed from the front, including inside of tail. I took the photos through my scope, but even so it was far enough away that the resolution is not good enough to see facial features clearly (or I need to work on my photo technique). My eye saw more detail than I caught through the camera, so I'm very certain I did not see any brown markings on the bird's body. In flight he looked like a huge gull, all white from below. This bird has been in the area continuously for several weeks (January) that I'm certain of, and he could certainly have been around before I was looking with the scope. Thanks for any suggestions.
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Old Thursday 19th January 2006, 03:58   #2
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Hi, Autrac! I see this is your first post, so a warm welcome to you from all of us on staff here at BirdForum!

I'm bad enough with photos to ID, I wouldn't presume to hazard a guess at the raptor you saw! But if the topside of the tail was reddish brown, that's a good indicator of Red-tailed as no other North American hawk has that color tail. This is also probably the most highly variable species in North America with several races and plumage variations within each race. When the bird was in flight, did you happen to notice whether there was any dark feathering on the leading edge of the underside of the wing (from the body of the bird to the wing's "elbow")?

Even though you say your photos aren't very good resolution, you might consider posting some of them here as the general shape and relative sizes of certain features, like wing length/width, relationship to tail, etc., can help nail an ID where plumage isn't always as reliable.
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Old Thursday 19th January 2006, 04:56   #3
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Hello, and Welcome to the BirdForum. We are glad to have you aboard!

I believe the hawk is a Red-tailed Hawk. The top side of the reddish tail is a very good indicator. Red-tailed hawks are probably the most variable in their plumage than any other hawk we have here in the states. Some of these hawks have very much dark markings on their bellies, some show less and some are nearly all white underneath, as your bird. In addition, some are nearly all white including their heads as exhibited by the "light race" of Red-tailed Hawk, the "Krider's". The "Krider's does not have that dark reddish tail either. Another "race" is the "Harlan's" Red-tail. This is dark bird, almost entirely dark brown. Some field guides, like Sibley's, show are lot of these different variations of Red-tailed Hawks. Hope this helps!
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Old Thursday 19th January 2006, 05:05   #4
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Krider's Red-tailed for me, too.
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Old Thursday 19th January 2006, 05:38   #5
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I thought Krider's looked good for coloration, but has it ever been seen that far east? It's a Plains-dweller. Not that birds read range maps. From the USFS site on its breeding/migration ranges:

"Krider's red-tailed hawks breed from southern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, southern Manitoba, and extreme western Ontario south to south-central Montana, Wyoming, western Nebraska, and western Minnesota. They winter from South Dakota and southern Minnesota south to Arizona, New Mexico, Durango, Zacatecas, Texas and Louisiana."
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Old Thursday 19th January 2006, 06:00   #6
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I read somewhere that their range includes Wyoming, which wouldn't make a Michigan sighting that unrealistic. I could be wrong though - can't find the source.
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Old Thursday 19th January 2006, 13:58   #7
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Thank you all! I started observing birds at feeders just last year, then moved to a real wildlife mecca (5-mile long lake with dense woods at all sides), so now identifying the parade before me has become so much more compelling. I'll get the Sibley's guide you reference. Are there other ID guides you'd recommend? I have two 'birds of Michigan' guides, but sometimes they still leave me guessing.
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Old Thursday 19th January 2006, 15:12   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overworkedirish
I read somewhere that their range includes Wyoming, which wouldn't make a Michigan sighting that unrealistic. I could be wrong though - can't find the source.
Michigan and Wyoming are pretty far away from each other. I have seen a Krider's in Missouri and so has my friend, so I know they make it this far at least. I don't know if the bird in the pictures is a Krider's Red-tailed though. Shouldn't they be a lot lighter in color on the headand back and shouldn't the tail be much less red than it is?
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Old Thursday 19th January 2006, 15:21   #9
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Katy and others: Yes, Krider's can definitely be seen this far east. I've seen at least 2 in northeastern Indiana.

I don't necessarily agree that autrac's bird is a Krider's as the rest of the coloration just seems too dark. But I do agree that's it's a red-tail -- that tail is unmistakable!

Autrac -- here's another warm welcome to you!
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Old Thursday 19th January 2006, 15:35   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katy Penland
When the bird was in flight, did you happen to notice whether there was any dark feathering on the leading edge of the underside of the wing (from the body of the bird to the wing's "elbow")?
I'm not that quick with the scope! Next time I see him around I'll look for that. By the way, I'm also seeing what I believe to be a juvenile bald eagle, same size/shape as the obvious ones, but no white yet. But I read that juveniles do not stay in their parents' territory. I see one or more adult bald eagles nearly daily, and the one I suspect to be a juvenile less often. Is this logical? No photo to show, as I'm still experimenting with digiscoping and no good product yet.
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Old Thursday 19th January 2006, 15:50   #11
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In my experiences it isn't uncommon to see a juvenile and an adult together during the winter at all. In fact, when I've seen groups during the winter at the Mississippi River there are usually both. How many eagles are there up in Michigan right now? This winter has not been good for eagle viewing down here at all.
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Old Thursday 19th January 2006, 16:43   #12
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Hi all,
the unmarked underparts looks good for Krider´s but the tail and head pattern doesn´t. Tail usually like this in adult (not saying that this is a Krider´s for sure) (http://nicholasnaturephoto.com/Texbi...led%20Hawk.htm). Head is to dark for Krider´s. Fuerte´s has unmarked underparts and a lack of dark subterminal tail band, more common in Fuerte´s, usually though, Fuerte´s has wings reaching tail tip, and I suppose on range, would be uncertain. Various intergrades is perhaps one of the more suitable explanations to it´s plumage pattern, or plain variation in eastern RTH, eastern because of the wing not reaching tail tip.

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Old Thursday 19th January 2006, 23:48   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by affe22
In my experiences it isn't uncommon to see a juvenile and an adult together during the winter at all. In fact, when I've seen groups during the winter at the Mississippi River there are usually both. How many eagles are there up in Michigan right now? This winter has not been good for eagle viewing down here at all.
I understand we get a good number annually, coming slightly south from harsher weather in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I'm new to my home on Lake Allegan, but neighbors tell me the eagles I'm seeing (one pair) are permanent to the area. This winter has not been particularly difficult either here in S. Michigan or in the UP, so I suspect we've fewer than normal for a winter.
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Old Friday 20th January 2006, 00:44   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Lade
Hello, and Welcome to the BirdForum. We are glad to have you aboard!

I believe the hawk is a Red-tailed Hawk. The top side of the reddish tail is a very good indicator. Red-tailed hawks are probably the most variable in their plumage than any other hawk we have here in the states. Some of these hawks have very much dark markings on their bellies, some show less and some are nearly all white underneath, as your bird. In addition, some are nearly all white including their heads as exhibited by the "light race" of Red-tailed Hawk, the "Krider's". The "Krider's does not have that dark reddish tail either. Another "race" is the "Harlan's" Red-tail. This is dark bird, almost entirely dark brown. Some field guides, like Sibley's, show are lot of these different variations of Red-tailed Hawks. Hope this helps!
It appears some of you thought I was suggesting that the bird in the photo was a "Krider's" Red-tailed Hawk.

I was not. I was attempting to show just how variable Red-tailed Hawks can be, eastern, western, partial leucistic, dark morph, rufous morph, light morph, Krider's, Harlan's, etc.

The bird in the photo has the "typical", adult tail coloration of a classic Red-tailed Hawk. Neither the dark Harlan's nor the light Krider's would show such a dark brown/red coloring of the upper side of their tail feathers.
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Old Friday 20th January 2006, 01:01   #15
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No Larry, I was answering Alex in #4.
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Old Friday 20th January 2006, 01:49   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by autrac
Thank you all! I started observing birds at feeders just last year, then moved to a real wildlife mecca (5-mile long lake with dense woods at all sides), so now identifying the parade before me has become so much more compelling. I'll get the Sibley's guide you reference. Are there other ID guides you'd recommend? I have two 'birds of Michigan' guides, but sometimes they still leave me guessing.
Sounds like you have a great new persuit. Buying a Sibley's is a great start. If you like hawks, I received a great Christmans gift, the book, "Hawks from Every Angle" by Jerry Liguori. It's great and shows several pictures of all the forms of Red Tails. (I think most of them live here, in Oklahoma, at some point in the year.) It isn't expensive and was recommended to me by someone (sorry but I can't remember who) on this site.
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Old Friday 20th January 2006, 02:03   #17
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Thank you so much for the book hint!
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Old Friday 20th January 2006, 03:34   #18
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A few things:

1. So do we have a consensus?
2. Sorry if I misunderstood you, Larry.
3. Thanks, JanJ.
4.
Quote:
Originally Posted by affe22
Michigan and Wyoming are pretty far away from each other.
...if by far away you mean neighboring states. And Allegan, MI is near the west coast of Lake Michigan - If Wyoming is in the Krider's range, it's not such an unbelievable possibility for Michigan to be in it as well. I'm not an expert on Red-tailed subspecies, which is why I left my little disclaimer:
Quote:
Originally Posted by overworkedirish
I could be wrong
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Old Friday 20th January 2006, 13:09   #19
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I have a very similar Red-tailed Hawk that has shown up on my place several times a year for the last three years. The underside appears completely white although I've not got close enough to see if there is any light belly band. As has been said several times, they are very variable.
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Old Friday 20th January 2006, 13:23   #20
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Hi Alex,

1. The bird is a Red-tailed Hawk, but not a "Krider's" Red-tailed Hawk.
2. I can see that there was just a misunderstanding.
3. OK, JanJ, I just wanted to clarify my initial post.
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Old Friday 20th January 2006, 16:46   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overworkedirish
4. ...if by far away you mean neighboring states. And Allegan, MI is near the west coast of Lake Michigan - If Wyoming is in the Krider's range, it's not such an unbelievable possibility for Michigan to be in it as well. I'm not an expert on Red-tailed subspecies, which is why I left my little disclaimer:
Are you kidding? Seriously? Maybe you mean Wisconsin. Wyoming is bordered by Utah, Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas and Nebraska and is in the Mountain time zone. Michigan is bordered by Ohio, Indiana, Canada, 4 of the Great Lakes and the upper peninsula borders Wisconsin and is in the Eastern time zone.
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Old Friday 20th January 2006, 16:57   #22
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Don't forget Minnesota in there, Affe. However, this state is within Krider's range. Not that it is a Krider's.
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Old Friday 20th January 2006, 17:00   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katy Penland
Don't forget Minnesota in there, Affe. However, this state is within Krider's range. Not that it is a Krider's.
Minnesota borders Wisconsin to the west but doesn't touch Michigan or Wyoming. But you are correct, it is still within range for Krider's. I wouldn't argue that.
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Old Friday 20th January 2006, 17:03   #24
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No, no, I know, I was simply including it as it's one of the "buffer states" between Wyoming and Michigan.
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Old Friday 20th January 2006, 17:08   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katy Penland
No, no, I know, I was simply including it as it's one of the "buffer states" between Wyoming and Michigan.
Haha, alright. I get it now. I was worried for a second but get what you are saying now.
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