Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ambiguous hawk

I'm not very good at raptors. There! I said it. High-flying hawks are hard to distinguish from my floaters, and even ones lower down confuse me with what seems a steady gradation of plumage types. Sparrows are actually easier.

Friday I was just about to head home from Central Park after a pleasant though unexciting afternoon--Mute Swans on the reservoir was the high point, and why exactly can't the Conservancy send a couple guys out to spread sand on the east side of the Reservoir track to help the dangerous icy footing? But I digress. I was at the 79th Street Transverse fence near Maintenance, scanning the pines across the road for owls, when I spotted a hawk circling over Turtle Pond.

I was expecting another Red-Tailed, but the bird I saw, though a fairly chunky hawk with wide wings, had a tail thickly banded black and white and a black terminal band. Not a Red-tailed. Light underside, maybe some streaking near the throat but no belly band, liight-coloref undersides of teh wongs with some dark banding but not dark tips or edging; dark (warm brown) head. After a couple of circles as I watched, it flapped twice and glided away north over the Great Lawn. This was not the flap-glide flight of an accipiter, it was a long soaring glide with the flap seemingly only to change direction out of the circling. The wings were held flat and the glide was pretty steady (it was not windy, at least on the ground).

So I have no idea what that was. My immediate through when I saw it was a Broad-Winged, but it lacked the black wing edges. Dark head and banded tail made me think about a female Harrier, but the flat-winged soar and glide doesn't seem right, and teh wings were perhaps too wide. In fact, I can make objections for each banded-tailed hawk.

I don't know if anyone will read this, but my very poor photos are at, and if you have a notion, I'd like to hear it.

If it's a Harrier, that would be my 175th New York County species of the year.

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