4 January 2021
One of the surprises when traveling in North America is that our most common hawk in Pittsburgh, the red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), looks very different out west.
In western Pennsylvania, red-tailed hawks are best identified by the belly band of stripes below their breasts and dark patagial marks on their underwings. Some have dark markings, some are pale. Adults are redder than immatures.
Though most western red-tailed hawks are similar to their eastern cousins they are generally darker, as shown below in Washington state. There’s also a dark morph that’s completely chocolate brown as in the photo at top from San Mateo County, California.
Here are more examples.
Arizona: Underwings on this adult are darker and redder than back east.
Utah: Dark underneath on an immature red-tail.
California: While many red-tails in California are merely darker, the dark morph is over the top.
Some day when we can travel again I’m looking forward to seeing a dark morph red-tailed hawk.
(photos by Robin Agarwal, Steve Gosser, Donna Foyle, Cris Hamilton, Mick Thompson, Steve Valasek, Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren; click on the captions to see the originals posted in Flickr with Creative Commons license)