English and Scientific names:

White-tailed Hawk

Number of individuals: 

1 second year




Specific Locality:

Along Harris Road, mostly around the T of Harris Road and Sidney Derouen Road

Date(s) when observed:


Time(s) of day when observed:  

Around noon

Reporting observer and address:

Paul Conover

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):

Pretty bad all around.  The area was foggy, and there wasn’t much light showing through. 

Optical equipment: 

zeiss 10s, nikon d50 w/200 mm lens, sony camcorder, cell phone camera through scope. 

Distance to bird(s): 

ca. 40-50 yards when bird passed over car. 

Duration of observation:

30 minutes


Ranch and pasture land with patches of weedy fields, treelines, and woodlots mixed in. 

Behavior of bird: 

The bird was initially drifting overhead, moving into the stiff south wind, and careening broadly from side to side.  When I initially saw it, it passed over the car and I looked up and saw the underwing markings.  I reached for my camera, and the bird veered—or was blown—a few hundred yards off to my right.  It appeared to be returning to the road, so I gauged its path and met it as it passed over.  Unlike most hawks, it seemed unconcerned with my presence beneath it. 


Eventually the hawk drifted to the west, landed in a small tree, then dropped to ground.  I set up my scope and watched it preen.  I filmed, photographed it, &c.


After preening for several minutes, it jumped up suddenly and flew at high speed to the SE, in pursuit of an American Kestrel carrying a food item.  The hawk pursued the kestrel through a series of twists and turns, and was joined in the chase by a Marsh Hawk.  Around this time, the kestrel gave up its prey, the hawk caught it, and then dropped into the field out of sight. 


Later in the day, I relocated the hawk and watched as it pursued a Caracara in the same direction. After giving up the chase, it continued to the SE over Hwy 14 and out of sight. 


A fairly large, long-winged, somewhat hooded buteo with scattered dark marking on its underwing coverts, broad dark belly band below, brownish upperparts with reddish highlights, white rump, and pale grayish tail.    


Underwings with whitish flight feathers evenly barred with thin bars and dusky tips, forming a somewhat darker trailing edge.  Outer primary tips dark.  Coverts of underwings fairly heavily speckled dark brownish, with a paler band of unmarked coverts running down their length –perhaps median coverts?  Some molt in flight feathers. 


Head capped solidly dark brown except with white eyebrows and cheek patches separated by a dark eyeline.


Breast bright white, whitish belly crossed by broad dark belly band comprised of thick dark longitudinal streaks.  Undertail and undertail coverts pale.  Tail with dusky terminal band. 


Mantle fairly evenly dark brown, with some rusty feathering molting in to upperwing coverts. 


Rump white, tail pale gray marked with slightly duskier terminal band. 


Legs yellow, tone difficult to make out in poor light.  I didn’t note cere or bill color.    


In flight, soared gracefully and with long pointed wings somewhat like Swainson’s.  In accelerated flight very easy motion, almost a quickly loping gull-like flight. 




Similar species:

Superficial resemblance to Red-tailed Hawk from below, given the belly band and the fact that this individual was a light-ish bird.  However, tail color and pattern, white rump, and reddish tint to upperwings eliminate Red-tailed. 

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

I took video and photos.   

Previous experience with this species: 

Experience with about a half-dozen 1st and 2nd year birds in Louisiana over past few years,  experience with species in Texas over the years.   

Identification aids:


This description is written from: 

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



Date and time: