LOUISIANA BIRD RECORDS COMMITTEE

REPORT FORM

1. English and Scientific names: Ferruginous Hawk, Buteo regalis

2. Number of individuals, sexes, ages, general plumage (e.g., 2 in alternate plumage): 1, 1st year

3. Locality: LOUISIANA: Cameron

Specific Locality: ca. 1 mi W of Holly Beach community/ ranging down the highway on 2/7, as far west as the end of the beach highway.

4. Date(s) when observed: 12/7/2013 and February 7, 2014

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

5. Time(s) of day when observed:

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

6. Reporting observer and address: Paul Conover, Lafayette

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

7. Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s):Mac Myers

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

8. Other observers who independently identified the bird(s):

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

9. Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light):Heavy overcast, poor light

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

10. Optical equipment (type, power, condition):Zeiss 10s, Nikon D50 w/300mm lens

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

11. Distance to bird(s):maybe 40 yards from the pole it was perched on at minimum

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

12. Duration of observation:†† 15-20 minutes

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

13. Habitat:coastal plain, immediately north of Gulf beach, perching on telephone poles, hunting over pasture land north of beach.

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

14. Behavior of bird / circumstances of observation (flying, feeding, resting; include and stress habits used in identification; relate events surrounding observation):Bird first seen as we were driving down the highway.There had been a steady number of redtails along the beach highway for several miles, both in the air and perched.As we approached the Apache HQ area, we saw two redtails in the air.One dropped near to a pole and we saw it harassing a large raptor that was perched atop the pole. The large raptor proved to be a Ferruginous Hawk.

 

The bird seemed largely indifferent to our presence.We watched it hunt and return to the pole, and when it finally dived and perched out of sight on the ground, we left.

 

The hawk hovered on wings held horizontally and flicked downward at the wrists.It was very graceful on the wing, at times seeming like a large White-tailed Kite.As it regained altitude following dives, it was suggestive of a Marsh Hawk.

 

On 02/07/2014, following Shawn Kurtzmanís resighting of the bird, I also found the bird on Holly Beach.Despite few sightings between the initial and subsequent sightings, I had been of the opinion that the bird was likely still in the area, but possibly perching on the ground as it had on the first sighting.Comparing photos, the markings on the birds seem to match, but some white fringes to wing feathers have worn down in the intervening 2 months.

 

On this day, I noted the hawk hunting birds.It would sit placidly on the pole tops and allow me to approach closely in my car.Then, suddenly, it would spring off the pole, fly directly across the prairie, and seeing a bird jump into flight, would reach out its talons trying to grasp the bird.It repeated this behavior several times, and I watched it carefully to make sure that I was seeing this action accurately.Each time it sprang from the pole, it kicked up a bird and reached through the air to grasp at the bird.The birds seemed about Savannah Sparrow sized, but may have been Yellow-rumped Warblers, given the huge influx of that species into the area around that time.

 

I never saw a successful capture in 4 attempts. I donít know if this is a standard hunting technique for this species or if it spells desperate hunger.

 

Also on that day, I noted a reason why the bird might be ground perching, if it is.Red-tailed Hawks seemed intent on displacing it from phone poles to perch there themselves.I watched the bird leapfrog from one pole to another several down the line repeatedly in response to this Red-tailed behavior.Itís possible that the other hawks were being displaced by my presence and were simply moving down the line, and pushing it as well.However, I recall that the Ferruginous was being set upon by Red-taileds when Mac and I discovered it in December (see above).

 

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

15. Description (include only what was actually seen, not what "should" have been seen; include if possible: total length/relative size compared to other familiar species, body bulk, shape, proportions, bill, eye, leg, and plumage characteristics. Stress features that separate it from similar species):

 

My views of the perched bird didnít offer great angles of all features, and given the light, some of the following might be incomplete or slightly inaccurate.Mental and digital notes from the sighting augmented with study of photos.

 

A raptor that at first glance appeared almost all dark brown above, all white below, with a white head when perched.†† When in flight, the bird appeared all white below and all dark above except for white rump and tail base, dark tail band, and conspicuous whitish primary panel.Noticeably larger than the 2 nearby Red-tailed Hawks.Flight shape long-winged and long-tailed, with wings broadest at the secondaries and narrowing toward tip.Wingtips raised above the horizontal while soaring.

 

Face white with dark eyeline, forehead and crown streaked white and brown but still appearing light overall.Eye yellow.Cere clear yellow, bill black, strongly hooked.Fleshy yellow gape extended under eye.Head seemed broader and eyes seemed more forward-facing than most hawks, very much like White-tailed Kite.†††

 

Back and upperwings: Back solidly dark, upperwing lesser coverts rich brown, median coverts same brown, with diamond-shaped centers but thin visible rufous edges that imparted a hint of rustiness to the wings.There were a few white spots on the folded upperwings whose exact nature I was unable to see.Greater secondary coverts with brown ground color evenly barred with darker brown, with low contrast between browns.Folded inner primaries on perched bird brown with pale fringes on tip.Rump white white with a few distinct dark spots. Basal 1/3 or so of tail whitish, the remainder dark gray that appeared as a broad dark tail band in flight.

 

Primaries when seen spread with whitish ground color to base on inner webs, pale brown on outer.Inner primaries appeared three-toned: whitish for basal 3/4s with thin widely-spaced thin pale brown barring; apical ľ with thick dark brown tip (fringed pale) and paler brown subterminal wash about the color of ground color of outer web.Outer primaries white based (duskier on out webs) and solidly tipped black or dark brown from the notch to the tip.Basically then, the folded wing showed the dark tip and brownish outer webs of the primaries, and when the wing was spread, the pale inner web was exposed and made a large pale primary panel (with a dusky trailing edge) extending out to the dark wingtips.The spread wing showed the trailing pale fringe across the secondaries and inner primaries.†††††

 

Underparts and underwings: Underparts largely white, but with what appeared to be a buffy wash beginning in patches around the legs and becoming more solid on the vent and undertail.Large brown spots on flanks (and thighs?), which showed up in flight as a conspicuous dark flank patch.Legs feathered to within a short distance of toes, with fluffy white thigh feathering and what appeared to be short, dense white tibial feathering. Short exposed part of leg, toes yellow.

 

Underparts in flight almost solidly white.Underwings white with dark (black?) commas formed by dark great primary coverts.Lesser coverts sparsely patterned with rows of brown or rufous spots which were visible only through optics, a few smaller rows also on median coverts.This covert spotting was similar in color to the flank spotting.Belly, vent, and undertail washed buffy as described above.Tail whitish with dusky wash†††

 

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

16. Voice:

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

17. Similar species (include how they were eliminated by your observation):In part, many species are similar.The white rump patch recalled Marsh Hawk, the flight style recalled White-tailed Kite, and the tail with band was suggestive of Rough-legged Hawk, but the full suite of features of this bird (white underparts, largely unmarked underwings, dark back) eliminated all of those species.The closest contender is Red-tailed Hawk, especially young birds with pale primary panels.Interestingly, Mac and I had seen a hawk earlier from a great distance that we thought had good potential for a Ferruginous based on its wing pattern.However, seen through the scope it was clearly a Red-tailed Hawk with an unusual primary panel shape, with darker primary coverts and white extending far out to the wingtip (and so less of a contrasting rectangle than usual).Pale Red-taileds (Kriderís, pale Harlanís, or otherwise) are also similar to this bird in having pale underwings.However, Red-taileds of all types can be eliminated by lacking feathered tarsi, and by a different underwing pattern: dark patagial mark in Red-taileds versus dark comma on Ferruginous.

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

18. Photographs or tape recordings obtained? (by whom? attached?):Both of us photographed the bird.I was able to obtain better quality images on 2/7.

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

19. Previous experience with this species:No extended periods of solid study of this species, but a good cumulative body of experience based on visits to breeding or wintering grounds; most recently, several seen in eastern Colorado and western Kansas late November 2013.Also, sporadic viewings of the species in Louisiana over the years, becoming almost annual in recent years.

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

20. Identification aids: (list books, illustrations, other birders, etc. used in identification):

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

a. at time of observation:

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

b. after observation:

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif

21. This description is written from: Notes recorded or committed to memory at the time, study of images.

22. Are you positive of your identification if not, explain: Yes

http://www.losbird.org/lbrc/dot_clear.gif