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Buteo, California, USA (1 Viewer)


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Seen today at Pigeon Point, on the coast in central California. What seems to be the same bird has been variously reported this winter as a dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk or a dark morph Ferruginous Hawk, or left unidentified, even by very good birders with pretty good views. This ebird report https://ebird.org/checklist/S64401430 gives the best case for Rough-legged - which I am inclined to agree with - and some more photos. One thing I have not seen commented on in previous discussions is the barring on the secondaries and primaries, which I think also favors Rough-legged. Does anyone have any additional thoughts?


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Stop Brexit!
It could just be photo effects, but your bird looks to have a substantially heavier bill than the bird at the ebird link you give. So if there are two birds, I'd suspect yours is Ferruginous, and the ebird one I'd agree Rough-legged. If they're definitely the same bird, then I'd go for Rough-legged, as the ebird pics are sharper and better resolution.


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Going by the OP’s photos, I would have said Ferruginous as well. Not just on the basis of the bill but also because of the characteristic eagle-like flight silhouette. . ..


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Many features like iris-colour; composition of bill-length/ base bill to the eye; headshape and type of gape. Then the extent of dark fingers, type of dark pattern to the whole of the bird and dito patterning to the white tail-and wingpatterning. The width of the hand compared to the width of the arm and all the wing compared to the body..
should be telling this to be a Rough-legged Hawk.
I am struggling to see Ferruginous in it at all but will continue for a while; which still is a good treat.

..as yet, I am still not certain which way to go: either RLH or FH
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..right, I just took a look at the e-bird photo's of the hawk and I like head and bill as RLH quite a bit better. These were not so easy here at Birdforum and those were my biggest concern. Still very hard a bird and it will take more confidence to be certain.

tom baxter

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Looks good for Rough-legged Hawk to me. The long tail, slender wings and underwing pattern are all a better fit for Rough-legged vs Ferruginous in my opinion.


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This is almost certainly a young rough-legged hawk, and very likely the same bird as in the ebird list. Dusky tail, dark trailing edge coming in, small gape, and dark primary tips. I am curious to hear what here points to FEHA?


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I am curious to hear what here points to FEHA?

Ebird and other reports that I have seen do not really give an analysis in support of Ferruginous Hawk; at most they have posted some photos without discussion. Perhaps they just assumed it is Ferruginous because that is usually more common in the area. Nutcracker and fugl have given (above) as much argument in support for Ferruginous as anyone. Looking over it all, I am convinced it is only one bird involved, and I still think Rough-legged Hawk is most likely. Thanks to all for your comments.


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Hmm. Well, dark morph FEHA and RLHA are quite similar, so I don't mean to discount what might have led to FEHA. For me, the two main points leading to rough-legged are:

1. All dark primary tips, which would be lighter on FEHA
2. the wing shape (not overly broad and tapered like FEHA)
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