As we drove north on Smithsonia Rd after visiting Howard’s Covered Bridge, we saw a small hawk sitting in a tree on the fence line by the road. It didn’t fly off as we drove by so we turned around, drove slowly back down the road and stopped on the opposite side of the road at a ‘respectable’ distance and took photographs before we attempted to move closer.
Based on its size, we guessed it probably was a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) but, based on its color, was a juvenile, not an adult.
We then continued down the road, turned around and drove slowly back and stopped beside the tree.
It continued to scan the ground below the tree. I’m sure it was keeping an eye on us but it didn’t seem at all disturbed by our presence.
An ‘enlargement’ of the head. This bird hasn't developed the red shoulder or the pink-brown barred breast of the adult bird yet.
W posted a photograph in a photography forum and an interesting debate ensued. Some amateur birders, lacking the benefit of having seen the size of the bird, identified it as a Red-tailed Hawk. The photograph was brought to the attention of an acknowledged but unnamed expert in Arizona who identified it as a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk. An interesting comment this expert made was that Red-shouldered Hawks in Florida were quite tolerant of people in fairly close proximity, and that this behavior had been observed to extend to Red-shouldered Hawks in Georgia. According to Sibley, this bird is an Eastern Red-shouldered Hawk rather than the Florida variant but it is interesting that this bird exhibited tolerance similar to that of the Florida birds.
In any case, it was a real treat to be able to get so close to this beautiful bird.
Click on an image to view a larger image
- PBase: Red-shouldered Hawk - Juvenile (Bob Moul)
- Sibley, D. A. 2001. National Audobon Society: The Sibley Guide to Birds. Red-shouldered Hawk. P117. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
- Field Trip: Oglethorpe County, Howard’s Covered Bridge