Monday, February 2, 2015

American Tree Sparrow, Red-Shouldered Hawk, and a mystery hawk

Sunday, I went to Riverdale to take my aunt out to lunch, and on the way I stopped for an hour's birding in Inwood Hill Park, where I ran into my first American Tree Sparrow of the year.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; American Tree Sparrow, Inwood Hill Park
Tree, Sparrow

All the classic marks: red cap, bicolor bill, breast clear except for one central spot, single bold wingbar (not shown).

On the way home, I went across Central Park. Entering the Ramble, I ran into Adrian Burke, who told me there was a Red-Shouldered Hawk "just west of the Oven". We don't get to see those all that often in the City. At Mugger's Woods in the Ramble, I saw a big lump high in a tree, and it turned out to be this:

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Shouldered Hawk, Central Park
rare visitor

...a Red-Shouldered Hawk. He flew off, roughly in the direction of the Oven, and I wound up tracking him through the Ramble.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Shouldered Hawk, Central Park
Red shoulder, see?

Now here's the funny thing. When I got to the Oven, Bruce Yolton was there with his camera set up, its enormous lens trained on a hawk in a tree just west of the Oven--well, a few steps down the path to the Riviera. "What the heck is this bird?" he asked me and another birder.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Unidentified Buteo, Central Park
Mystery hawk

What, indeed? We couldn't quite figure it out. Clearly a Buteo by shape, but that isn't the belly band of a Red-Tail, and that tail is quite long for a Buteo (though too short for an Accipiter), and the banding is faint with thick dark bands, not the many thin bold bands of a juvenile Red-Tailed. 

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Buteo, Central Park
another view of a mystery

Aside from the shape and tail length, when it flew out, it used not the flap-flap-glide style of an Accipiter but the fast steady strokes of, well, a Red-Shouldered Hawk.

So I think this may be an immature-plumage Red-Shouldered. If I'm right, two Red-Shouldered Hawks in Central Park at once is amazing.

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