Answers to QUIZ TIME.
And here’s why.
We only have a front view of this bird. The light source is filtering through from behind, not great light.
The bird in the photo is a buteo, not an accipiter (Cooper’s hawk). There are three buteos in our area at this time of year, Broad-winged, Red-shouldered, and Red-tailed Hawks. They are all a different size, the broad-winged the smallest, red-tailed the largest. But there’s nothing to compare this bird to, to judge its size. No help there.
Forget about the tail color (red-tailed hawk) since we can’t see the tail.
Cutting to the punch, only a red-tailed hawk would have streaks across the lower chest/upper belly as does the hawk in the photo. The other hawks either have brown streaks throughout the underparts (immature) or reddish barring (adults). It’s a red-tailed hawk.
I saw and heard the bird in person and witnessed its behavior. Although behavior is very helpful in determining the age of a live bird, it’s of little use with a static photograph.
When red-tailed hawks hatch they have blue or gray eyes. The eyes turn yellow soon out of the nest and eventually become brown.
Fresh from the nest, eastern red-taileds have a slight reddish cast to the clear area of the breast. I’ve seen this described as rufous, ochre, or buff colored. It fades quickly and by fall it’s usually gone.
The eyes of the bird in the photo look gray to me and there is a blush of reddish, rufous, or ochre on the clear area of the breast. I’d say this bird is not long out of the nest, recently fledged.
The limb the bird is standing on is of little or no help in identifying the tree in this photo. The leaves behind the bird are terrifically useful. I know of no other tree in our area that has leaves that are swallowtail-shaped at the tip. Most leaves terminate in a point, a somewhat rounded point, or are completely rounded.
This is a Tulip Tree or Yellow Poplar. But you already knew that, didn’t you?
Greg Dodge is a professional naturalist as well as a writer, videographer and producer of natural history DVDs. His images have been used in various TV productions, museum displays, and corporate videos. Above all, he has a fascination and passion for all things natural.
He can be found Tuesday thru Saturday in Explore the Wild, Catch the Wind, or on the Dinosaur Trail. Ask him what’s new in the wild!