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How to "age" Red-tailed Hawks


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Dark brown eyes and reddish tail feathers help identify a typical Red-tailed Hawk as an adult.  While yellowish eyes and banded (non-red) tail feathers help identify a juvenile/immature RTHA.  But how many years does this transition take, and at what point do you call the bird adult or not when mixed ID features are seen?  For example, this month I've been seeing RTHAs with pale or light brown eyes and only one or two reddish tail feathers.  How would you "age" those birds?

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  • 3 weeks later...

I think the eye color changes happens gradually over the course of a year or two and the time frame is not exactly the same for all individuals, but I could be wrong about that.

Regarding plumage, Red-tailed Hawks are in juvenile plumage for one year and then they molt into adult plumage. If you are seeing birds with a mix of juvenile and adult tail feathers, they are actively molting from juvenile into adult plumage.

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6 hours ago, AlexHenry said:

If you are seeing birds with a mix of juvenile and adult tail feathers, they are actively molting from juvenile into adult plumage.

I think @smittyone@cox.net is wondering whether those birds with mixed plumage are called juveniles because they still have some juvenile plumage, or if they're called adults because they have some adult plumage. Is full adult plumage needed to be considered an adult or does adulthood begin with the first adult feathers?

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