Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery birds] American White Pelican, sometimes known as the Rough-billed Pelican due to the structure that develops on the upper mandible of breeding adults, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos, photographed at Smith Point, Texas. Numerous Broad-winged hawks, Buteo platypterus (background) with two red-tailed hawks, Buteo jamaicensis (right of center, lower left) [I will identify these birds for you in 48 hours — If you can convince me there’s other species in this image, feel free to add your comments and supporting arguments]

Image: Joseph Kennedy, 26 September 2009 [larger view].

Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope with TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/1250s f/8.0 at 1000.0mm iso400.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Can you name ALL the species in this image?

Review all mystery birds to date.


  1. #1 Nick
    October 28, 2009

    I see an American White Pelican and a whole lot of Broad-winged Hawks…

  2. #2 David
    October 28, 2009

    American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos); many Broad-winged Hawks (Buteo platypterus); probably a Cooper’s Hawk in the top left quadrant (Accipiter cooperii); but that light-colored hawk, center right, is giving me some trouble- maybe a Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)?

  3. #3 psweet
    October 30, 2009

    David, I’m not sold on the Cooper’s — looks to me like a bunch of Broad-wings, and two Red-tails. (There appears to be another one in the lower left corner). Both of them show very clean underwings, large pale windows typical of immature Red-tails, and broader secondaries than the Broad-wings.
    The two upper left birds appear to me to possibly be dark-morph Broad-wings — I know that Corpus Christi gets them every year.

  4. #4 David
    October 30, 2009

    psweet, missed the second Red-tailed… I just can’t get enough resolution on the enlargement of the photo to do any more than guess at the unusual ones: dark morph Broad-wings sounds good but then could the two “Red-wings” be light morphs instead?

  5. #5 psweet
    October 30, 2009

    Actually, the ‘light morph’ Broad-wing is the one we think of as typical. Dark-morphs are very rare in the East — they only breed in Alberta (and maybe northern B.C.). And most of these birds are clearly Broad-wings. On the other hand, a quick check of Wheeler shows some immature Broad-wings with a single dark subterminal band on the tail, similar to the one in the center. Since a Red-tail would have to be significantly higher to appear the same size as the Broad-wings, I guess maybe you’re right — unfortunately, it seems we may be down to two species, then.

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