Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery bird] Black Kite, Milvus migrans, photographed at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania, Africa. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]

Image: Dan Logen [larger view].

Nikon D2X and Nikon 200-400 VR lens at 270 mm. ISO 160 f/6.3 1/800.

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

Review all mystery birds to date.


  1. #1 ACW
    December 29, 2009

    Umm, Grrl, you prematurely included the ID among the tags.

  2. #2 Tristram Brelstaff
    December 29, 2009

    The European honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus) has yellow legs and comes in a dark brown form like this.
    Probably not a long-legged buzzard (Buteo rufinus), which also has yellow legs and comes in a dark brown form, because its range doesn’t extend to East Africa.

  3. #3 Adrian
    December 29, 2009

    I don’t think it’s a Quail!! Uniformly brown upperparts, broad twisted tail, mottled primary panel on the underwing and barred secondaries seem to make this a Black Kite (Milvus migrans)ssp parasitus also referred to as Yellow-billed Kite.

  4. #4 Susan
    December 29, 2009

    Based on the stout bill and long wings with black tips, my guess is a wintering Steppe Eagle.

  5. #5 zoo713
    December 29, 2009

    The striping under the wings, general body shape and face favor the Black Kite (Milvus migrans) – I gotta’ go with that.

  6. #6 andrewt
    December 29, 2009

    I think you’ll find its a more enchanting bird than any of the species nominated so far.

  7. #7 David Hilmy
    December 30, 2009

    No time to dally I’m afraid (next dive in 4 hours), but has anyone considered a dark morph* or juvenile Augur Buzzard, Buteo augur (sometimes considered conspecific with the Jackal Buzzard, Buteo rufofuscus augur)?

    Differentiated from Susan’s wintering Steppe Eagle because of the unbarred undertail just visible, and slightly broader wings than the kites…

    *the melanistic form is recorded in about 10% of the Kenyan population but as much as 55% in forested montane regions as would be found in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro crater

  8. #8 Adrian
    December 30, 2009

    AndrewT, If by enchanting you are referring to “monks singing” I think they have barred underparts in all plumages and yellow confined to the cere above the bill. David, Auger/Jackal Buzzard has a secondary bulge and short tail giving a vulture-like outline which I can’t see in this bird, also even in dark-phase birds the under wing has a broad white panel extending across both primary and secondary underwing coverts and a dark bill. I think I’ll stick with my first thoughts of Black Kite.

  9. #9 David Hilmy
    December 31, 2009

    “monks singing”?

    hmmm, according to Phaedrus (Book 1, XXXI) more like a “wandering” (migrans) raptor exercising “tyrannic sway” yet columbae saepe cum fugissent milvum, et celeritate pinnae vitassent necem*

    *”the Doves had oft escaped the Kite, by their celerity of flight”

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