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December 28th, 2010
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Short-tailed Hawk

Early afternoon I picked up Joe Corcoran from the airport. Joe was in town from Baltimore, Maryland, with a list of birds he’d like to see. We set straight to work and headed for the east of Tucson. A SHORT-TAILED HAWK has come back to an ordinary-looking neighborhood every winter for the last four years. We drove the area briefly and scanned the obvious perches, then we explored on foot. We found some of the common local species as well as a PRAIRIE FALCON overhead, and eventually, after about 45 minutes the hawk appeared, flying into its favorite area. We got good views in flight and then watched as it folded its wings and stooped at full speed at a Northern Mockingbird, just missing its intended prey. We spent the next 20 minutes watching this rather beautiful little hawk as it perched on a roof and nearby telephone pole.

Short-tailed-Hawk-Tucson-10-1228-09

Short-tailed-Hawk-Tucson-10-1228-02Short-tailed-Hawk-Tucson-10-1228-11

After spending four winters in Tucson, some doubt has recently been cast as to this bird’s parentage. Relatively little is known about Short-tailed Hawks and their plumage progressions, but it’s fair to say that by now this bird should be a full adult. It’s also fair to say that its plumage is somewhat ‘interesting’ for an adult Short-tailed Hawk. It still has a buff wash and well-defined streaking on the breast and flanks, while the head pattern now has a slight Swainson’s look to it. On the other hand, it’s the right size and shape for Short-tailed. Nobody has come up with a convincing argument either way, so for now, as far as I’m concerned, it remains a Short-tailed Hawk until further notice…

We ended the afternoon in Rich Hoyer’s backyard in midtwon Tucson, looking for Violet-crowned Hummingbird. We struck out, unfortunately, although we did see a PEREGRINE FALCON overhead, an INCA DOVE in the yard and the continuing hybrid female BLACK-CHINNED x COSTA’S HUMMINGBIRD.

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