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Saw this guy in December 2021 at Loess Bluffs NWR, in NW Missouri.  Despite the fairly light eyes, I'm leaning toward adult on this guy.  I know eye color and tail color don't always change at the same rate.  Despite the very light belly banding, the creamy/buff undersides make me lean toward Western (Buteo jamaicensis calurus)

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Here is my attempt at an ID:

This is a very interesting bird, as it looks like it has mixed aged body feathers, but it is not time for it to be molting. The more I read into these ID's the more confusing info I get... I need to make a flow chart or something! Apparently even a white throat doesn't rule out abieticola! (see figure 3: LINK)

Now for this bird, I think we can assume it is an adult by the fully red rectrices. The whitish UpTC rule out calarus. This bird has a relatively dark markings overall, ruling out krideri. That leaves us with harlani, abieticola, and borealis. Here is where things get tricky for me. I'm not seeing much evidence for harlani, as there aren't asymmetrical remiges, though we can't be certain there isn't any mottling in the tail, as it is suspiciously white. If we had better looks at the tail, and it showed mottling, I'd have to reconsider what I say next.

Now I'm left with abieticola vs borealis. This bird has a pretty light belly band for an abieticola, and lighter patagials. The tail (assuming it is showing at least one lighter tail band above the subterminal band) is within range for both abieticola and borealis. The tail banding fits a darker borealis, however. Looking at the rest of the bird, the belly band fits borealis, the dark throat is possible in darker borealis, and the patagials are typical for borealis. The underwing coverts are relatively unmarked, pointing towards borealis, though not ruling out abieticola. The upper parts of the bird are within reason for a dark borealis or typical abieticola. Also, the light rufous wash through the underparts favors borealis. All of those things combined, lead me to believe this bird is one of the darker borealis birds.

Sources used:

https://northernredtails.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/rth_aabieticiola_north_american_birds_march_2014.pdf

https://northernredtails.wordpress.com

https://www.aba.org/birding_archive_files/v42n2p5w1harlans.pdf

https://birdsoftheworld-org.ezproxy.mtsu.edu/bow/species/rethaw/cur/appearance

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A boreal borealis?  Or northern borealis, as opposed to the "plains" version more common in my area?  I'm aware there are darker versions of borealis that tend to hang out in the northern and northwestern parts of their stomping grounds.  I think that's what you're saying this is, and I tend to agree.  I just don't know how to "report" it.  

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A boreal borealis?  Or northern borealis, as opposed to the "plains" version more common in my area?  I'm aware there are darker versions of borealis that tend to hang out in the northern and northwestern parts of their stomping grounds.  I think that's what you're saying this is, and I tend to agree.  I just don't know how to "report" it.  I'm thinking of calling it a rufous adult Eastern Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis borealis)

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Borealis have only one morph, but are significantly varied across their range. For eBird, I would report it as a Red-tailed Hawk (borealis), though I could be totally wrong about the ID of this bird. My guess is that it is a Buteo jamaicensis borealis, that is on the darker end of the spectrum. I’m not sure of the specifics of the regional variance. 

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I'm aware borealis only have one morph.  I'm calling it a rufous only as a descriptive term, to differentiate it from say, the lighter "Plains" version.  Perhaps the FB Red-tailed Hawk gods could provide some input?  Besides, I'm curious how they report the various "tones" of borealis.  I know they're darker in boreal areas vs. down here in the lowlands.  With such a variable plumage, why aren't there more color morphs we could call them?  

I rarely report to eBird unless I discover something unusual or out of it's "normal" range.  Nor am I confident enough (usually) in my IDs to post there either.  This particular sighting is over 2 years old.

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26 minutes ago, smittyone@cox.net said:

I'm aware borealis only have one morph.  I'm calling it a rufous only as a descriptive term, to differentiate it from say, the lighter "Plains" version.  Perhaps the FB Red-tailed Hawk gods could provide some input?  Besides, I'm curious how they report the various "tones" of borealis.  I know they're darker in boreal areas vs. down here in the lowlands.  With such a variable plumage, why aren't there more color morphs we could call them?  

I rarely report to eBird unless I discover something unusual or out of it's "normal" range.  Nor am I confident enough (usually) in my IDs to post there either.  This particular sighting is over 2 years old.

If there is a system of catagorizing the variable plumages within each subspecies and morph, I am unaware of it. Usually I just use basic descriptors like darker, lighter, and typical. “Plains” was a new one for me, but makes sense when talking about birds that show Krider’s traits, and are possible intergrades. It’s up to you come up with a system of reporting these Uber-specifics if you are wanting to catalogue them for yourself, since the options for literally reporting them are limited to avoid even more confusion. Maybe when we have a better understanding of RTHA systematics with more and more research we will be able to more accurately separate these birds, but for now, we still need to get our subspecies strait 😆
 

One thing I want to see eBird do is add a tagging system for cataloguing morphs and variants, but I think even a tag for “Plains” borealis RTHA would be a little much. 
 

Also, your use of the word report is what might be confusing me. Usually when people say they are reporting a bird they mean on eBird or iNaturalist. How do you plan on reporting these birds? Then we could be more helpful when we know what system you plan on using. 
 

Im sorry if this seems passive aggressive or attacking you in any way. I’m not trying to be, I’m just trying to understand what you are looking for.
 

And yes, the more input from others the better! 

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Blobby belly could be because it is still not completely molted from juvenile feathers yet.  I honestly think at some point there needs to be differentiation for some of these borealis, such as light/dark morph with the birds showing this much rufous being the "dark".  

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Avery, my fascination with sub-species is partly out of curiosity, and partly my need to be as accurate as possible.  That probably stems from my years in military intelligence, where even the tiniest of details mattered greatly.  When I started out birding and posting my finds to social media, particularly FB, many times my inaccurate IDs were met with less than tactful responses.  It's just one of the reasons I'm no longer on FB.

I do still post to social media, as well as populate my own website.  Every image I post has an accompanying photo caption.  I try to keep those captions as accurate as possible.  Once an ID is arrived at here, I then caption my own photos accordingly.  I often refer back to those correctly identified bird photos, and use them to help identify subsequent shots of similar birds.  

Having learned so much here, I now identify nearly every bird I photograph.  I post here only those birds I'm uncertain of.  Usually those in non-breeding colors, or subspecies, or color morph, beyond just the basic bird.

Using the word report was probably a poor choice of words.  Likely also going back to my intelligence days, when you stated something based on evidence, you recorded (or reported) it.

end of rant/confession

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29 minutes ago, smittyone@cox.net said:

Avery, my fascination with sub-species is partly out of curiosity, and partly my need to be as accurate as possible.  That probably stems from my years in military intelligence, where even the tiniest of details mattered greatly.  When I started out birding and posting my finds to social media, particularly FB, many times my inaccurate IDs were met with less than tactful responses.  It's just one of the reasons I'm no longer on FB.

I do still post to social media, as well as populate my own website. 

Would love to see your site.  

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10 minutes ago, smittyone@cox.net said:

I don't see a site specific forum where I can post this question.  Where some folks have their life list, favorite quote, weblink, etc. below each posting--how do I do that?  I looked under profile and account settings.  I must've missed it.

Account > account settings > settings area > signature 

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2 hours ago, Snake Fingers said:

Can you see people’s signatures on a phone? Because I never see any.

 

2 hours ago, Avery said:

You can’t unfortunately 

I can see signatures on my Android phone, but only when I flip it horizontally. While it doesn't give me the full computer version, flipping my phone sideways shows a different version of the website than when I hold my phone normally.

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I feel sure this is an adult, despite the eye color, because of the uneven-length wing feathers, seen better on the left wing.  The tail looks kind of Harlan's-like to me, but that's as far as I can go.  I've posted it on Facebook.  So far the only comment is that it looks like the somewhat Western-like Easterns that breed in Alberta.

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7 minutes ago, Jerry Friedman said:

Mike Borlé adds that the dark upper side and head and moderate marking of the underside look good for Eastern or Northern, but the washed-out tail suggests Krider's or Harlan's ancestry--which it is of those might be controversial.

Glad I’m not the only one who was confused by this bird! 😅

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24 minutes ago, Avery said:

Glad I’m not the only one who was confused by this bird! 😅

Mike also compared this bird to one he'd seen in Alberta that he and his friends called "the freak" or the "the quilt bird" because it was a crazy quilt of features from different subspecies.

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