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Hawk or falcon (North Dakota, near Slade NWR)


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I'm afraid that even using a tripod and 2-second timer, my camera just can't get detail at 100 yards. 

But here's a hawk or falcon or something, hunting from some big round hay bales. When I stopped, there were a couple smaller birds next to it, sparrows or perhaps meadowlarks. 

It looks like:

1. Juvenile/immature broad-winged hawk

2. Immature northern goshawk

3. Prairie falcon 

4. Adult male northern harrier (except head markings seem wrong) 

5. Red-tailed hawk, particularly a juvenile, but they don't seem to have a clear white stripe above the eye like this 

6. Ferruginous hawk, particularly an immature, but they also lack a bold eye stripe 

7. Anything else?? 

Some details about the markings: gray wings with a scaly appearance (like juvenile semipalmated sandpiper), white stripe above eye. Pale neck and underparts, with brown streaks running lengthwise with the body, and getting denser toward the wings. Brown shoulders, but pale neck and breast between the shoulders. Shaggy looking upper legs, with brown dots on the pale downy feathers (not sure what they are called). 

It has a call, a lot like a killdeer. I know a lot of hawks do, so probably not helpful. I'm playing some audios for comparison, but I think I'm just confusing myself. 

Is the body shape helpful in eliminating or supporting any species? 

It flew away once and returned a few minutes later, then flew off again. I'm currently waiting for it to return. Hopefully. Update: it returned, and then a big tractor came rolling down the road and it flew off again, gliding very low to the ground, wings sometimes in a slight dihedral. 

A couple of weeks ago, I reported an identical bird as a prairie falcon, but ever since then I've been having doubts about that, so I'm hoping we can figure out if that's a possibility or not. If not, I need to revise that ID. 

Thanks! 

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I believe it is a Swainson's. 

It came back a 3rd time, and I got a clearer look of the chalky white face. Also the vocalizations seem to match. 

I can't find any photo or illustration which quite has the same exact combination of markings (density and shade of stripes, etc), but the overall pattern of markings fits Swainson's best. Especially that chalky white face. 

Other things to support Swainson's: vocalizations, habitat, the fact that the sparrows weren't afraid, a white bar at the base of the tail when flying, the dihedral wings when flying (very dihedral the second flight I saw), and the shape and posture. 

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On 9/15/2018 at 1:42 PM, The Bird Nuts said:

The chunky shape and markings rule out all falcons and Accipiters.  Prairie Falcons are much smaller with proportionately larger heads and eyes.  Northern Harriers have distinct owl-like faces and relatively slim bodies.  Accipiters are also slimmer/more elongated.

thank you, that's very helpful 

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