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Harlan's or dark morph RTHA?


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Seen today at Loess Bluffs NWR, in NW Missouri.  The light streaking on this immature buteo's  body, and splotchy markings on the wings, suggest to me that this is a Harlan's RTHA.  But, I understand the leg feathers on a Harlan's extend farther down the leg (not RLHA length), than on Red-tailed Hawks.  I see a lot of leg showing on this bird.  I also think I see just a hint of dark trailing edge on the wing feathers, but this is a young bird, so...

I've brought up the "Dark morph RTH vs Harlan's" here before, yet I still struggle with it.  Am I concentrating on the little details and missing something obvious?

  

DSC05932a.jpg

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3 minutes ago, Aidan B said:

It's a Harlan's, though I'm not sure how I know that. 

The underwing pattern looks weird for a dark morph, or at least the normal ones that I see here. I agree with Harlan’s, but I’m not positive.

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Looks good for juv. Dark-morph Harlan's to me. It's highly mottled overall (look at the wing linings), the breast is heavily streaked, the bird is dark and contrasty, not warm chocolatey brown, and the emarginated primary tips are barred, not solid like in almost all juv. Western RTHAs and most Eastern RTHAs.

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4 minutes ago, DLecy said:

Looks good for juv. Dark-morph Harlan's to me. It's highly mottled overall (look at the wing linings), the breast is heavily streaked, the bird is dark and contrasty, not warm chocolatey brown, and the emarginated primary tips are barred, not solid like in almost all juv. Western RTHAs and most Eastern RTHAs.

I'll just add that it is a dark-morph Red-tailed Hawk--a dark morph of the Harlan's subspecies, not a dark morph of the Western (or Northern) subspecies.

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12 hours ago, Jerry Friedman said:

I'll just add that it is a dark-morph Red-tailed Hawk--a dark morph of the Harlan's subspecies, not a dark morph of the Western (or Northern) subspecies.

I'm not smart enough to argue whether a Harlan's is a sub-species of Red-tailed Hawk, or just a color morph.  All I know is that a dark-morph RTHA and a Harlan's RTHA look different from each other.  Your statement above, confuses me though.  Perhaps it's just the way it's worded.  Are you agreeing that this is a Harlan's RTHA, and at the same time, implying that Harlan's are just a "different" dark morph RTHA than a typical dark-morph RTHA?  I'm not trying to be argumentative--I genuinely don't understand what you are saying above. 

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21 hours ago, smittyone@cox.net said:

I'm not smart enough to argue whether a Harlan's is a sub-species of Red-tailed Hawk, or just a color morph.  All I know is that a dark-morph RTHA and a Harlan's RTHA look different from each other.  Your statement above, confuses me though.  Perhaps it's just the way it's worded.  Are you agreeing that this is a Harlan's RTHA, and at the same time, implying that Harlan's are just a "different" dark morph RTHA than a typical dark-morph RTHA?  I'm not trying to be argumentative--I genuinely don't understand what you are saying above. 

The answer to your question is yes.

Harlan's is officially considered a subspecies, and like you, I can't argue with that.  It's certainly not a color morph, because there are light, intermediate, and dark Harlan's.  So let me put it this way:

Eastern is a subspecies of RTHA.  All Eastern birds are light.

Western is a subspecies of RTHA (or it consists of two subspecies, but let's not get into that).  It has light, intermediate, and dark morphs.  Light are the most common.

Harlan's is a subspecies of RTHA.  It has light, intermediate, and dark morphs.  Light are fairly rare (around 10%).

This bird is obviously a dark morph, so the question is Western or Harlan's?  For the reasons given above, it's a Harlan's.  So it's a dark-morph Harlan's.  That's what I was trying to say above.

(A Northern subspecies is also recognized, and apparently it has a rare dark morph.  I don't know whether you could tell a dark Northern from a dark Western in the field off the breeding grounds.)

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