English and Scientific names:

White-tailed Hawk (Buteo albicaudatus)

Number of individuals: 

1 adult

Locality: LOUISIANA: 

Cameron Parish

Specific Locality:

Pine Pasture Road, Cameron Parish (if south side of the road is in Cameron as maps seem to indicate)

Date(s) when observed:


Time(s) of day when observed:  

about 11:00 am

Reporting observer and address:

Paul Conover

Lafayette, LA

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

Dave Patton, Mac Myers present. Dave only saw the bird in silhouette, Mac may have gotten more of a look.

Other observers who independently identified the bird(s)


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

Sunny, sun coming through thin clouds. The bird when first seen was to my left, and the sun to my right, with about a 90 degree angle between them. It soon cruised across the sun and became a silhouette, 

Optical equipment: 

Zeiss 10 x 40 binoculars

Distance to bird(s): 

75-100 yards at the closest? Hard to judge as it was soaring. Within the distance where details are easy to see.

Duration of observation:

about 15 seconds in good light, then about 10-20 seconds in silhouette.


Open fields with a long line of tall pines. A farmer was burning a field not too far to the SE. 

Behavior of bird: 

We we birding along a line of tall, thinned out pines, with excellent visibility thru the trees next to us, poorer as the line extended to our sides. Bird was soaring to the SE of me when I first got on it, with its near wing angled down as it wheeled, pointed at me so that bird was in profile. As it circled, its underparts faced me directly for a few seconds, giving me a look at its entire underparts. Then the bird circled to the W and into the sun, and glided swiftly to the W, behind the treeline and out of sight.


A strongly patterned hawk. From below, a large buteo with dark flight feathers, brilliant white wing linings, immaculate white underparts from chin to the tail with no duskiness on flanks. Tail white, with distinct, even, black subterminal line. The overall effect was of a brilliant white bird with its rear edge outline in dark, appearing broad, with long, pointed wings. I did not see any vermiculations on the sides of breast, flanks, or underwing linings of the bird; if they were present, they were light.


When I first saw this bird, I was expecting it to be one of the many redtails seen in this location [perhaps ½ dozen]. Instead, I saw a bird with a solidly colored back [I saw it at an angle from which I could see that there was no mottling on the back, but I didn’t note the color or pattern of the mantle otherwise], and as it was wheeling, noted the dark primaries and started to announce it as an adult Swainson’s. Then, I realized that the bird had no bib, just a clear demarcation between dark cheek and white chin and throat, and, as the tail swung into view facing me directly, showing a pure white color broken only by the sharp subterminal band, I quickly altered the end of my announcement to let the others know it was a White-tailed Hawk instead [our second of the day]. As the bird circled, its Swainson’s like wing shape was obvious, but it quickly got in line with the sun and became silhouetted. I believe Mac got a look at the tail, while Dave only saw the shape. The bird, as it glided to the west, put more trees between us and it, and we lost it.


We later realized that fields to the SE of us were being burned, and concluded that the hawks were massed there for that reason.






Not heard

Similar species:

Krider’s, Pale Harlan’s, or albinistic Red-tailed: combination of white wing linings and dark flight feathers rules out redtails. Shape also different, with narrow wingtips. No Red-tail should have such an even dark subterminal band.


Swainson’s Hawk: similar wings in shape and pattern, but lack of bib, and color and pattern of tail completely different.


Short-tailed Hawk: Tail pattern different—no dark, even subterminal band.

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?


Previous experience with this species: 

Seen a few times in Texas, and in Louisiana. We had seen an immature WTHA earlier in the day and photographed it.

Identification aids:


This description is written from: 

Fresh from memory.

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




Paul Conover

Date and time: 

9:00 PM, December 10, 2006