Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Raptor Quiz for "Birding Is Fun!"

Most of the images in this post come from the "not my favorite" folder. I wasn't pleased with lighting, quality, angle, or some other aspect of the image. For those same reasons, however, they lend themselves well to quiz material. All are raptors and I've numbered them 1 to 11. If you are interested, write down the number and the ID as you scroll through and identify them. I will provide my IDs and reasoning at the end of the quiz images. Even if you only attempt to ID a few it might be a fun exercise for you. My IDs are based primarily on experience in the field and the following references I use frequently:
  • Hawks From Every Angle by Jerry Liguori
  • Hawks At a Distance by Jerry Liguori
  • Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America (both the book and the Android app)
  • Hawks of North America 2nd Edition by William S. Clark/Brian K. Wheeler
I'm not an expert, but I do consult my references and people who know raptors inside and out. I learned quite a few things by putting together this quiz. Feel free to share your thoughts in a comment if you have questions or a different opinion. 

With the exception of one raptor photographed in Kentucky (#8), all of these raptor images were captured in the state of Utah. Can you identify each one? How about the age and sex for the ones that seem easy to you? How about a subspecies?  A species and even the same bird might show up more than once in the images below.

Have fun and thanks for playing along!







#8 (the one seen in Kentucky)





  1. Adult Light Harlan's Hawk: Mostly whitish tail with rufous tips and edges, white scapulars, white belly with crisp belly marks
  2. Dark Ferruginous Hawk: Large/long yellow gape, whitish tail, pale wing panels (showing on upper wing), white flight feathers (showing on underwing)
  3. Juvenile Harlan's Hawk: Juvenile Harlan's Hawks have heavily barred flight feathers and primaries are barred to the tip. the bird is black and white overall with heavy mottling
  4. Adult Sharp-shinned Hawk: High-centered chest, smallish head, red eyes, heavy rufous barring. The outer tail feathers are shorter so it appears to be the tail of a Cooper's Hawk. However, female Sharpies can have rounded tails.
  5. Juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk: Accipiter shape, high-centered chest, smallish head. Some adult-like rufous barring on under side, but eyes are still yellow (juvenile trait) and there is still brown streaking on the head and nape (juvenile trait).
  6. Dark Western Red-tailed Hawk:   This is a tough one from what is shown in the image above. You may see a hint of the rufous showing through to the underside of the tail that barely extends below the cross rail on which the bird is perched. From the one image provided above it would be hard to rule out the possibility of a Harlan's Hawk. See additional images of this bird below for a better look at the tail and the bird in flight.
  7. Adult Cooper's Hawk: Accipiter-length tail with visible white tip, rufous-barred, tubular body, small-eyed appearance, and the crown color is light for what would be expected for an adult Sharp-shinned Hawk. The top side is gray with brownish "hands" or primaries. It is pale-eyed for an adult Cooper's.
  8. Broad-winged Hawk: Buteo shape, rufous barring across chest and most of belly, 
  9. Light Swainson's Hawk: White under-wing coverts contrast withe dark remiges, brown bib on light underside.
  10. Merlin (Taiga): Brown upper side, white supercilium, pale throat, and heavy rufous marking on chest and belly.
  11. Adult Light Harlan's Hawk (same bird shown in image #1): Streaked head, bright white underside with sparse and distinct belly marks, and whitish tail. See additional images of this bird below.
Additional images of the light adult Harlan's Hawk shown in #1 and #11

These images show the lack of banding in the flight feathers which is sometimes the case with adult Harlan's Hawks. The dark terminal band in the remiges is an adult trait as well. The bright white underside with distinct spots, and white around the eye are marks of a light Harlan's Hawk as well.

Adult Light Harlan's Hawk American Fork, UT

Adult Light Harlan's Hawk American Fork, UT

Additional Images of the Dark Western Red-tailed Hawk shown in #6

The head and underside of this hawk appeared almost completely dark. The image below shows it has a red tail, some juvenile feathers remain near left edge, and there is a dark band across the bottom edge.

Adult Dark Western Red-tailed Hawk in Heber City, UT
Adult Dark Western Red-tailed Hawk in Heber City, UT


  1. Beautiful photos and amazing photos of the hawk!

  2. Fun post Jeff, but ewww...I didn't do so well : )