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Babies On The Golf Course at Santa Rita: Can You Identify Them?

Juvenile hawks roosting in a pine tree at Santa Rita Golf Course, near Tucson, AZ

Donte' Ormsby and I played 18 holes of golf yesterday at the Santa Rita Golf Course south of Tucson, AZ.  We had intended to play only nine holes, but you know how that goes.

These two young hawks were roosting in a pine tree on the 18th hole.  I have a few birding books, but try as I might, I haven't been able to identify them. 

I got a view of the back of the hawk when one flew into a sycamore tree.  The tail is barred, and it's underside has the same creamy yellow that you see on the breast.

Active Rain has become my favorite resource for stuff I can't figure out.  Can one of you identify them? 

 

Darlene Smyth, Tucson Audubon field leaderEDIT:  Here's an email from one of our local Audubon Society gurus, Darlene Smyth, with the answer.  Darlene has birded extensively in North, Central and South America.

Hi Mike,
 
What wonderful photos!  However, it is no wonder you all were having a hard time deciding upon an identification for these Red-tailed Hawks There are 13 accepted races for this species and there are several color morphs (light, intermediate, and dark) for many of the races.  One region of North America can have several resident (breeding) races and, as in the case of SE AZ, several more winter here.  The various races of this bird will also interbreed so one can have the characteristics of two races in one single bird.  This is always a very difficult species to pin down as to race and very few books even begin to show all the variations of Red-tailed Hawks.
 
These birds would be of the light morph "Western" race.  Young birds have light colored irises, a light colored cere, and have not yet molted into a rufous red tail.  General characteristics that make this a Red-tailed Hawk:  "Belly" band of dark streaks (not all races have this), large size, from the rear, the markings on the "shoulders" (scapulars) of the bird form a lighter colored V when viewed from the rear.  (Diagnostic for this species in flight is the dark leading edge of the wing seen from below).  Young birds have longer tails than adults, have grayish-brown tails barred with black, and have pale irises.  Pages upon pages have been written to describe this species, the various races, the various color morphs, and the juvenile traits of the various races.   A great book for western raptors is:  Raptors of Western North America by Brian K. Wheeler 2003...Princeton press).
 
I would like to invite all of you to come along on Tucson Audubon Society field trips.  We can not promise great hawks on each trip, but we usually manage to find interesting birds. http://www.tucsonaudubon.org/fieldtrips/index.htm
 
Cheers,
 
Darlene

EDIT 2:  Here are a couple of other shots of the juvenile hawks.  The box above the bird is the nest.

Juvenile Red Tailed Hawk.  The box is the nest.

Looking at you

 

 

 

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Mike Jones (Tucson Mortgage Company, LLC): Loan Officer in Tucson, Pima County, Arizona
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Photos copyright Mike in Tucson, (except photo of Darlene Smyth is courtesy of the Tucson Audubon Society.)

Comment balloon 18 commentsMike Jones • June 28 2009 09:06AM
Babies On The Golf Course at Santa Rita: Can You Identify Them?
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Donte' Ormsby and I played 18 holes of golf yesterday at the Santa Rita Golf Course south of Tucson, AZ. We had intended to play only nine holes, but you know how that goes. These two young hawks were roosting in a pine tree on the… more