Hawk ID help please

Richard Bradus

Hi all

Another morning, more signs of breeding, this time in the Presidio. Had a fledgling House Finch and multiple birds visiting nests or feeding young. And...

I'm baffled by a hawk I saw (poorly) flying in the distance northeast of Ft. Scott. I initially thought it might have been an immature Red-shouldered as I saw "windows" in from the wingtips (naked eye view), but it was flying (when not harassed by crows) in a dihedral, and the wing pattern was just off. 

I managed to get one photo:
Inline image

Apologies - taken on my glorified point-and-shoot at distance and then cropped to about 6X - but I refrained from any other image manipulation. 

Clearly in molt, it is completely confusing me! I noted the brown head and thought Swanson's (which its in flight profile seems appropriate, with a rather narrow appearance) but the trailing parts of the wings should be dark, and the belly clear. The "belly band" and the dark leading wing edges are appropriate for a Red-tail, but I've never seen any age Red-tail with this kind of pattern of the primaries. A Rough-legged does have this kind of wing pattern, but the characteristic dark wrist patches seem to be out beyond the "wrists" in this bird. Out of left field: looking online I found a surprising concordance with some images of immature White-tailed Hawks (esp. female, given the brown head). Huh?

Any and all input welcomed - I clearly need help here!


Richard Bradus
San Francisco

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