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Today as I opened the back door to put out more peanuts,  I was shocked to see this  extremely large bird of prey perched high in a tree a good distance from me.  I quickly grabbed my cell phone and binoculars to get a better look.  It is white underneath and it looked like possibly a light grey head.  It had the expected beak.  What also surprised me was that my little songbirds were continuing to feed with this enormous predator clearly in view.  Any idea  as to what bird this is?  Thank you.20190304_140134.thumb.jpg.a0bac83a954d7f597f59a31833c000f8.jpg1595942713_20190304_140139(4).thumb.jpg.8d5a34df50dc038c7f24fb9fea04d6d9.jpg

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Thank you for the replies, it is just much larger then other red tails I have seen.  Just a big one I guess.  I am surprised the songbirds were still feeding with this hawk so visibly perched, is that normal?  I am new to all of this as you can no doubt tell.  Thank you for your quick replies.  Pretty hawk.

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Yeah, size is notoriously hard to judge, especially when they're up close, and by themselves in a tree. Female Red-tails can definitely be substantially larger than males, however. As to why the passerines weren't concerned, it could be because a Red-tailed Hawk is surprisingly not much of a danger to small birds. They prefer rodents and birds larger then you're average House Sparrow. Being a Buteo, they're not super manoeuvrable, like for example a Cooper's or Sharp-shinned Hawk, which are built to catch songbirds. 

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6 minutes ago, egosnell2002 said:

Yeah, size is notoriously hard to judge, especially when they're up close, and by themselves in a tree. Female Red-tails can definitely be substantially larger than males, however. As to why the passerines weren't concerned, it could be because a Red-tailed Hawk is surprisingly not much of a danger to small birds. They prefer rodents and birds larger then you're average House Sparrow. Being a Buteo, they're not super manoeuvrable, like for example a Cooper's or Sharp-shinned Hawk, which are built to catch songbirds. 

Thank you.  Maybe this was a  female of the species.  It looked like someone built a snowman in that tree it was so large and such a bright white. 

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Hi again all.  I saw it again today, but couldn't get a picture.  I heard it cry several times, it didn't sound like a red tail.  it sounded closest to a Ferruginous Hawk.  I live in Kansas in the KC area and I know I am a bit further away then where they should be seem.  Of course this could a different huge bird with white underparts.  I hope it comes back and perches so I can try for another picture.

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Okay. I was thinking Short-tailed Hawk if you lived in Florida but you don't - keep a close eye on it and see if you can detect any hints of a belly band because I'm not convinced of Red-tail. I don't believe it's a Ferruginous either - the head would be much lighter and the bill much more obvious. 

EDIT: Try to get pictures of it flying!

Edited by Melierax

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Hopefully you can get some more looks at it, Avalon.   I don't see why anyone can say Red-tailed for sure based on these pictures alone.  I'm sure it's likely,  based on posture and size, but the colors are kind of jarring.  Unless cellphone cameras distort colors that much?

Your songbirds probably were a little uneasy in the presence of a raptor, even if they're not the number one menu choice.  I've seen birds continuing at the feeder with a Cooper's Hawk sitting fully exposed twenty feet away.  When the potential danger lacks the element of surprise, they seem more willing to take chances.

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Unfortunately, I saw it fly across the  field and land in a neighbors tree again facing the other way and partially obstructed by branches.  I used the 8x zoom on  my camera for the  photos I took yesterday, it was much further away then it seems to be.   The tree in the picture it quite tall.

Yesterday, when I looked with my 10x binoculars, I only saw very few colored blotches on it's very white underside.  The beak was quite large and it was looking all around.  the head looked grayish in my binoculars.  

Today I saw it fly from across the field to another tree a couple houses down.  It looked huge.  It sat there for a bit, while I ran to get my camera and cell phone, but before I could get either ready, it moved to a different and more obstructed tree.  In flight, I saw that it looked quite white again. Then it flew somewhere else close, but my view was blocked and I heard it cry several more times.  Wing span was at minimum 4 to 6 feet.  My blue jays, cardinals and smaller birds continued eating with it near by.  I will  be keeping my eyes out for it today.

  

 

Edited by Avalon
repeated sentence

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5 minutes ago, Avalon said:

Unfortunately, I saw it fly across the  field and land in a neighbors tree again facing the other way and partially obstructed by branches.  I used the 8x zoom on  my camera for the  photos I took yesterday, it was much further away then it seems to be.   The tree in the picture it quite tall.

Yesterday, when I looked with my 10x binoculars, I only saw very few colored blotches on it's very white underside.  The beak was quite large and it was looking all around.  the head looked grayish in my binoculars.  

Today I saw it fly from across the field to another tree a couple houses down.  It looked huge.  It sat there for a bit, while I ran to get my camera and cell phone, but before I could get either ready, it moved to a different and more obstructed tree.  In flight, I saw that it looked quite white again. Then it flew somewhere else close, but my view was blocked and I heard it cry several more times.  Wing span was at minimum 4 to 6 feet.  My blue jays, cardinals and smaller birds continued eating with it near by.  I will  be keeping my eyes out for it today.

  

 

A view of the back of the tail would help too 🙂

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8 minutes ago, Bee_ keeper said:

Hopefully you can get some more looks at it, Avalon.   I don't see why anyone can say Red-tailed for sure based on these pictures alone.  I'm sure it's likely,  based on posture and size, but the colors are kind of jarring.  Unless cellphone cameras distort colors that much?

Your songbirds probably were a little uneasy in the presence of a raptor, even if they're not the number one menu choice.  I've seen birds continuing at the feeder with a Cooper's Hawk sitting fully exposed twenty feet away.  When the potential danger lacks the element of surprise, they seem more willing to take chances.

To the naked eye,  it was quite white.  I looked with my binoculars to determine whether it was as white as t  appeared, or  more  buff or had some pattern.   It had only  few colored spots on it's  snow white underside.

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32 minutes ago, Avalon said:

To the naked eye,  it was quite white.  I looked with my binoculars to determine whether it was as white as t  appeared, or  more  buff or had some pattern.   It had only  few colored spots on it's  snow white underside.

 

Admittedly I know nothing about midwestern  Red-tailed hawks appearance-wise.  If the spots were belly-bandish, it could be a lighter colored Red-tailed.  As we all know they are highly variable.  Or a leucistic bird is always a possibility.  It's the steely gray head that doesn't compute for me.  There are some browns in the photo, among the branches there, so I wouldn't assume that the steely gray tone is just the camera's inaccuracy.

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It was a lighter gray..  The sounds it was making today, didn't sound like a red tailed hawk.  Which makes me wonder.  The back side of it is not white, I only saw glimpses as I watched it fly across the field, or turning as it took off again.  Looked brownish or possibly grayish, but not a dark shade.  

In January of this year, I saw an extremely large raptor in nearly the same spot.  I could only see the back of it, but earlier that day,  I think it had flown over my head and scared me quite a bit because of  its size.  I saw the white underside briefly before it landed.  I only got a photo with my cell phone of the backside of that bird in Jan.    Of course it may not be the same bird.   The picture was taken inside my house, looking out the screen window.  A local person thought this bird was a young bald eagle.  It didn't have a white head.  

Edited by Avalon

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If I were to see this bird in my area with this much detail (like at a distance), I would've immediately thought Red-tailed.  Believe me, Red-taileds can look extremely white in the right lighting (like when the sun is lower in the sky like it is now)!  I would like better photos for confirmation, though.

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18 hours ago, egosnell2002 said:

Yeah, size is notoriously hard to judge, especially when they're up close, and by themselves in a tree.

I recently came across a thread on another forum (not a wild bird forum) in which the OP claimed the raptor they photographed was four feet tall! :classic_laugh: It was a Red-tailed.

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2 minutes ago, The Bird Nuts said:

I recently came across a thread on another forum (not a wild bird forum) in which the OP claimed the raptor they photographed was four feet tall! :classic_laugh: It was a Red-tailed.

Wow! Even bigger than a Harpy! 

You get better at judging bird sizes with more experience, just from looking at the same birds over and over again, but it's still really hard with loan birds. I personally find this especially hard with loan accipters, I'll think it's either tiny or huge, and it will come by close and turn out to be the opposite species. Always hard to judge, especially birds in flight!

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1 minute ago, The Bird Nuts said:

If I were to see this bird in my area with this much detail (like at a distance), I would've immediately thought Red-tailed.  Believe me, Red-taileds can look extremely white in the right lighting (like when the sun is lower in the sky like it is now)!  I would like better photos for confirmation, though.

So would I!  When I saw it today, I very excitedly ran to get my camera that has a better zoom (the battery was being recharged, as I grabbed it yesterday too, but it was dead) .   Unfortunately, it perched where it was partially blocked by branches of closer trees and it didn't sit there long enough for me to get the picture.  I hope it returns and perches in  a spot I can get a better view with a better camera.

 

Here is  a picture of the Jan bird, where only the back of it is visible. Taken from inside the house through the screen window. 

image.thumb.png.a6f19101bb7c56856e1635f10c952303.png

 

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I only began feeding the birds last year.  I have become much more observant of the various Hawks I have seen then I had ever been in the past.  I live in a more rural setting now.  I have seen a couple red tails on my trees this past year.  Saw one nearly grab one of my squirrels just as I stepped outside.  I now know what a Cooper's hawk looks like, as they were camping my feeders.  It has been amazing seeing the large variety of birds that visit my feeders.  I am trying to get better at identifying hawks.  So, I try to get a picture if I can.  (I also try to get pictures of new birds I see and am unsure of).

That bird yesterday was very striking and no doubt beautiful.  The hawk today, one yesterday and the ? one in Jan were the biggest birds (of prey) I have ever seen in the wild.

When that bird flew over me in Jan, It had come from someplace behind me as I was watching activity  across the street.  It was flying low.  It really scared me,  as I saw it only after it passed me and it was just so huge!

On a drive out of town last week, I began counting all the hawks I saw perched along the highway!  It seemed like every mile , there was another one.  Hopefully, all 3 of the jumbo size raptors are just female red tail hawks and mystery solved.  I am hoping some day I will be able to tell which raptor is which even with all their differences in appearance.  We do have eagles in this area too.  And if I ever see one, I am just hoping it will have the characteristic markings so I know what I am seeing! 

I really appreciate all of your help.  And I a hoping to see the bird again and get better pictures

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2 hours ago, Bee_ keeper said:

Hopefully you can get some more looks at it, Avalon.   I don't see why anyone can say Red-tailed for sure based on these pictures alone.  I'm sure it's likely,  based on posture and size, but the colors are kind of jarring.  Unless cellphone cameras distort colors that much?

Your songbirds probably were a little uneasy in the presence of a raptor, even if they're not the number one menu choice.  I've seen birds continuing at the feeder with a Cooper's Hawk sitting fully exposed twenty feet away.  When the potential danger lacks the element of surprise, they seem more willing to take chances.

Yesterday, when I saw it in the  tree, and saw my birds still  eating, I  felt like going outside and telling them to  "hide, there's a hawk!"   I am  so used to seeing them fly  off if there are hawks flying in the air or a sneaky Coopers hawk in a tree.

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55 minutes ago, Avalon said:

Yesterday, when I saw it in the  tree, and saw my birds still  eating, I  felt like going outside and telling them to  "hide, there's a hawk!"   I am  so used to seeing them fly  off if there are hawks flying in the air or a sneaky Coopers hawk in a tree.

I find bird behavior fascinating to watch.  So easy to watch them at a feeder too.  With all the hawks in your area, it must be non-stop excitement.  I've noticed my feeder birds will scatter if any kind of hawk soars overhead, even if it's a soaring gull for that matter.  If it's a gull they do generally quickly recalibrate and return.  If a hawk comes down and perches nearby, they will return as well to the feeder, but with lots of agitated chirping.

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I love watching them too!  When the weather is nice, I like to  sit outside and watch them.  They are so  expressive with their  different personalities.  Having the Jays mobbing unwelcome hawks and chasing them is amazing.  There was a lot of excitement when I would sit outside with them and they would suddenly fly away.  Then they would be completely silent.  I would search the sky and sure enough, there was a hawk.

 

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