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I am curious, IF all you had were these photos, what are you looking for to ID this bird???  Another question about this particular bird...  (This is where a different section of the forum could be handy, perhaps...)
I was walking down a trail with my son and we stopped to watch an eastern phoebe about 25 feet in front of us, and lower than us, it was near the water. As we watched the bird I asked my son if he could see the behavior(bobbing its tail) as I'm trying to make him work for this lists... 🙂  From 50 or more feet away, this hawk SLOWLY flew in towards the phoebe. My first thought was it was after it. I don't think it was even though it flew straight past it and, right up to us. I mean 10 to 15 feet away in some young trees by the water's edge. I couldn't decide if there was something wrong with it. It just sat there. Got a bunch of photos. If I moved too much it got a LITTLE nervous, sometimes hopping just another foot or two over but still SO close to us. We ended up walking down the trail a little further before turning around and stopping to stare at the hawk a while longer. It, again, got a little nervous before it eventually flew to the other side of the pond and landed on the ground. Didn't look to be hunting... just landed on the ground. We had to get moving otherwise we would have watched it longer. I feel like maybe something was wrong and felt bad but at the same time, it's certainly not every day one of these sits still RIGHT in front of you. So we enjoyed that.

 

sadhawk.JPG

sadhawk2.JPG

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I would say based on the picture of the hawk from the back that is a juvenile red-tailed hawk. Red-tailed typically have a White V shape pattern when seen from the back. Makes me think juvenal based on your description of his actions and the color of his beak. An adult Hawk would be more cautious and would have not gotten so close. Also they usually only land on the ground with a meal.

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12 hours ago, millipede said:

I am curious, IF all you had were these photos, what are you looking for to ID this bird???

My answer to that question is nothing...at least initially.  My brain does most of it for me and it screams adult Red-tailed Hawk.  But I can point out a few things that support my brain's ID. 😄 It has small eyes, a big head and body, and a beak big which means it's a bulky hawk, a Buteo, and it is bulkier than most Buteos.  Its cere is green and not very noticeable, its eyes are dark, its throat is white, its breast seems mostly white with streaks coming down from the sides of the neck, and the color and mottled pattern of its head and back are, well, Red-tailed.  Being a Vermonter, the only other similar species I am familiar with are Red-shouldered and Broad-winged, but I think I would notice something is off (like the color or color pattern) if it was something like a White-tailed Hawk (or even a different morph of Red-tailed), in which case I would probably leave it for others to ID.

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40 minutes ago, The Bird Nuts said:

It has small eyes, a big head and body, and a beak big which means it's a bulky hawk, a Buteo, and it is bulkier than most Buteos.  Its cere is green and not very noticeable, its eyes are dark, its throat is white, its breast seems mostly white with streaks coming down from the sides of the neck, and the color and mottled pattern of its head and back are, well, Red-tailed.

Aside from being very curious about this bird's behavior, I put this out there hoping to get an explanation like that. Someone else mentioned that sort of V you can look for on the back but the mottling on this bird kind of made it difficult for me to say there was one there. I NORMALLY see mottling on the back like that on a red-shouldered. (I looked at Sibley's the other night and saw that an adult light morph will look like this.)
Perspective and size threw me as well... with the bird as close as it was, it looked smaller than I'd expect a RTHA to be. I think when you see birds from further away most of the time, up close they suddenly appear different.

So all those points you mentioned, are they pretty good for separating this from a RSHA? I'm a slow learner with subtle differences and I want to be able to look at a bird and not get confused. HA.  To me, the bird HAD to be a red-tailed but not because I was able to tell from any of those marks.  The very upper breast was more white than anything but there was still enough markings on the front to make it not such a noticeable belly band to me. Perhaps in flight it would have appeared more like a belly band to me... 

Thankfully this bird wasn't too young or else it may have had a browner tail and might have confused me more...  but I'm not sure I've ever seen a redder tail before so it was kind of a no-brainer at that point.  But I WANT to be able to pick up on a RTHA without being able to see the red tail, dark patagials, or belly band. Maybe Ill get the hang of them one of these days.

 

sadrtha.JPG

sadrtha2.JPG

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1 hour ago, The Bird Nuts said:

My answer to that question is nothing...at least initially.  My brain does most of it for me and it screams adult Red-tailed Hawk.  But I can point out a few things that support my brain's ID. 😄 It has small eyes, a big head and body, and a beak big which means it's a bulky hawk, a Buteo, and it is bulkier than most Buteos.  Its cere is green and not very noticeable, its eyes are dark, its throat is white, its breast seems mostly white with streaks coming down from the sides of the neck, and the color and mottled pattern of its head and back are, well, Red-tailed.  Being a Vermonter, the only other similar species I am familiar with are Red-shouldered and Broad-winged, but I think I would notice something is off (like the color or color pattern) if it was something like a White-tailed Hawk (or even a different morph of Red-tailed), in which case I would probably leave it for others to ID.

Agree with all this.  I knew as soon as I saw the first photo what it was, but laying out specifics as to why my brain jumps to an ID is something I still struggle with. 

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It is very difficult for me to explain these things, too!

I think most Red-taileds are bigger and bulkier than Red-shouldereds, and this guy/gal looks big to me.  Millepede is right that birds look smaller when they are closer to you.  This is why I think proportions are important.  It struck me a few days ago that part of "GISS" is your brain noticing proportions.

If the eyes on a Red-shouldered were this dark, it would likely mean it was an adult and adult Red-shouldereds, depending on the subspecies, have paler and/or more orange heads and shoulders.

I think the head pattern on a Red-shouldered, adult or juvenile, is usually more streaked than mottled.  Most of the time I can't see the white "V" on the backs of Red-taileds either, and Red-shouldereds can also have that pattern anyway, so I don't really look for that.

As far as cere color goes, it's not always reliable (some Red-taileds have pretty bright yellow ceres), so, as always, it's important to look for other clues.  I think the same goes for the white throat.

I don't know if this will be helpful....If anyone can add to or correct me on any of this, feel free to do so!

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