English and Scientific names:

Harris's Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)

Number of individuals: 

1 adult

Locality: LOUISIANA: 


Specific Locality:

Recovery I Road at RR tracks

Date(s) when observed:

1 January, 2007

Time(s) of day when observed:  

12:15-12:18 p.m.

Reporting observer and address:

Phillip Wallace

New Orleans, LA

Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s):


Other observers who independently identified the bird(s)


Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light):

Good to fair. Bird was soaring and sun was initially behind observer.

Optical equipment: 

Zeiss 10 x 40 bins

Distance to bird(s): 

100-400 meters

Duration of observation:

3 minutes


Recovery Pond; marsh; landfill

Behavior of bird: 

Bird was soaring and circling at an altitude of about 75 m. Initially over Recovery Pond, then past landfill and then southwest toward the Intracoastal. Turkey Vultures were in the general vicinity, but the bird did not seem to be associating with them.


Large raptor appeared all dark below except for conspicuous, extensive white at the base of the tail. The video makes it clear that the undertail coverts, as well as the base of the tail, were white. The distal 1/3 of the tail was dark and there was a white terminal band on the tail. The tail was long and large, giving a distinctive delta-shaped appearance when spread (broad distally and very narrow at the base of the tail). Broad wings were also long and dark. The head appeared small compared to the wings and body.



Similar species:

I initially thought the bird was a juv. Golden Eagle because of the small head and the white in the tail, as well as the shape of the tail. The size was way off, but that's difficult to judge on a soaring bird. I was puzzled by the white terminal band on the tail and the absence of white patches at the base of the primaries, but wasn't sure either of those would rule out GOEA. When I checked out the field guides and looked at the video at home after the observation, it became clear that it was a Harris's Hawk rather than a GOEA. The white terminal band on the tail and the fact that the undertail coverts, and not just the base of the tail, were white indicate HAHA rather than GOEA.  

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

Stills from the video accompany this report. Complete video will be submitted to LBRC.

Previous experience with this species: 

I've seen a couple of times in LA and several times in TX and AZ.

Identification aids:

Also sent video to Tom and Jennifer Coulson, who agreed that it was HAHA.

This description is written from: 

Memory, notes taken shortly after sighting (1:00 p.m.), and video.

Are you positive of your identification? If not, explain: 


Yes. Provenance is always an issue with HAHA, but the Colsons weren't aware of any missing HAHA from zoos or falconers in the area.


Phillip Wallace

Date and time: 

12 March, 2007