Thursday, January 19, 2017

PeregrinePrints.com ... Blog: RANT (Red-tailed Hawks)



I'm going to rant about Red-tailed Hawks. If the entire world can shift to emotion-based politics, I assume the birding community can handle this completely fact-free rant. If not, there's the door.




When I was a kid, I'm reasonably sure this is how Red-tailed Hawk subspecies were treated:


Note: I'm ignoring Harlan's... 

Abieticola was a mythical RLHA-like bird that hailed from the treeline in northern Quebec/Labrador... Over ten years ago I observed a bird that fit this bill - a freak juvenile looking RTHA with belly markings unlike anything I had ever seen (80-90% odd dark triangles across the belly) and sitting on the GROUND in a wide open field.... Then we had "eastern", "western" and something called Krider's from the prairies...

Maybe hindsight is 20/20, but it was pretty obvious that the "Eastern" birds that nested in the boreal were darker than the local birds... When our birds were sitting on eggs, it was possible to see a steady migration of heavily marked birds at the spring hawkwatch in Beamer/Grimsby...

Now that I've been "out of the raptor loop" for several years, I peek back and this is what I interpret:



"Eastern" RTHA is now subjected to the pale local RTHA, and anything with a belly band is being called abieticola... Seemingly eating into the range of every other subspecies... 

My confusion grew during a June/July visit to southern Saskatchewan, where I encountered DARK MORPH Red-tailed Hawks breeding just shy of the Manitoba and North Dakota borders.... and of course a quick search around the interwebs led me nowhere in trying to find a proper definition of "western" red-tailed hawk range... 

Which leads me to believe that we actually know very little about where these population start & end, and trying to put any sort of a subspecies label on them is bordering on pointless... In the future, I'd love it if we could define them on a slider-scale of "northerly to southerly" and "more eastern or western" in their traits, perhaps with slightly more contrasting demarcations when dealing with ecozones (eg,/ Florida, Carolinian, Boreal, Prairies, Destern/Southwest, Northwest/mountains, Newfoundless).. Perhaps something like this: 



Alright! That's it! Rant over. 



1 comment:

  1. Check these RTHA out:

    https://ebird.org/media/catalog?date.beginMonth=1&searchField=species&hotspot=Windygates%20(hawk%20watch),%20Pilot%20Mound%20Area,%20CA-MB&date.beginYear=1900&date.endYear=2017&hotspotCode=L126162&taxonCode=rethaw&view=Gallery&action=show&date.yearRange=YALL&date.endMonth=12&onlyUnrated=false&date.monthRange=M1TO12&start=0&count=30&mediaType=Audio,Photo,Video&sort=upload_date_desc&q=Red-tailed%20Hawk%20-%20Buteo%20jamaicensis&species=Red-tailed%20Hawk%20-%20Buteo%20jamaicensis

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