CORRECTION to Photo of the Week

Earlier today, I posted about my very fortunate encounter with a hawk in the Nebraska Sandhills.  At the time I took the photos, a couple biologists with me identified the bird as a juvenile ferruginous hawk, and I (being mostly a bug and flower kind of guy) went along happily with their identification.  After I posted the photos, however, several people correctly pointed out the features that indicate that it was actually a juvenile red-tailed hawk.  I’ve edited the post to reflect the correct identification and added a brief clarification as well.

Thank you to those of you who responded (and did so politely!) to let me know of the error.  Although I’m pretty good at identifying most prairie birds, I have certainly never claimed to be an expert at hawks, especially the buteos (broad-winged soaring hawks).  In fact, and this is particularly ironic, because of the abundance of red-tailed hawks around here, I usually just call everything a red-tailed hawk unless it’s clearly a Swainson’s or rough-legged hawk, because those are the only other two I can identify!

Here is an additional photo of the RED-TAILED HAWK.  Regardless of species, it was a pretty amazing experience to get so close to such a large and beautiful bird.

This bird is obviously a juvenile red-tailed hawk, judging by its band of spots across its belly and the lack of feathers on its legs.  Any prairie ecologist worth his salt would recognize it as such...

This bird is obviously a juvenile red-tailed hawk, judging by its bill size, band of spots across its belly and the lack of feathers on its lower legs. Any prairie ecologist worth his salt would recognize it as such…

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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7 Responses to CORRECTION to Photo of the Week

  1. Jordy Jordahl says:

    Nice. Enjoyed the earlier post. Enjoy seeing the community engagement

    Thanks for the posts. Always fun

    Jordy

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Valerie Blaine says:

    Chris, I have been a naturalist for 30-some years and I still misidentify hawks. (I’m mostly a plant person.) Similar to you, the most frequent response I hear when seeing a buteo is, “Probably a redtail.” … Regardless of the i.d., your photo is awesome, as are all your photos! Great shot.

  3. Lance Foster says:

    I’m an utter beginner, so I enjoy learning. Mainly here we seem to have red tailed hawks here on the Iowa reservation (by Rulo Bluffs), though I see kestrels too. I am at a total loss when it comes to immature and variant forms of hawks. I thought I saw a Cooper or Sharp-shinned whipping through the woods the other day. The great thing about being a beginner is that just about anything you learn is a major revelation! We are doing a plant inventory here this year, so it would be good to get input on that too.

  4. Lance Foster says:

    I’m an utter beginner, so I enjoy learning. Mainly here we seem to have red tailed hawks here on the Iowa reservation (by Rulo Bluffs), though I see kestrels too. I am at a total loss when it comes to immature and variant forms of hawks. I thought I saw a Cooper or Sharp-shinned whipping through the woods the other day. The great thing about being a beginner is that just about anything you learn is a major revelation! We are doing a plant inventory here this year, so it would be good to get input on that too.

  5. Jane Papsdorf says:

    I totally agree with Valerie. You do awesome work. We don’t see Ferruginous Hawks in Indiana. I am glad you mentioned the darks spots on the legs.

  6. Mary Baird says:

    Hey, Chris. Easy mistake. Thanks for the close up connection with this bird. I thoroughly enjoy your blog. Mary Baird

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