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I'm not sure this one can be identified from the pics, but I'm hoping I have enough added info to give it a shot.  Here is what I know and some analysis I've already done:

  • These pictures were taken in West Chester, PA in early August.  Unfortunately, they were late afternoon which meant most of the pond was in shadow.  The bird happened to be in bright sunlight.  The result is pretty washed out.
  • The bird had been hovering just before I grabbed my camera and fired off a few pics.  By hovering, I mean holding its spot in the air by rapid wingbeats (not gliding on a wind draft).
  • I googled hovering birds.  Other than hummingbirds, other birds known to hover include American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, Osprey and Kites.  As far as I know, there are no kites in my area of any kind.  So I am focusing on Kestrel, Harrier and Osprey.  (PS... if anyone knows of any other candidates that hover, let me know).
  • If there is one thing I've learned from this site, its that judging size is fraught with peril.  However, these pictures were taken standing in my kitchen looking at a pond about 200 yards behind my house.  I have several other pictures of birds in this pond.   Measuring these other birds, I've estimated the mystery bird to be 11-13" long with a wingspan of 26-20".  American Kestrel is pretty close to this.  It is too small for Northern Harrier and way too small for Osprey.
  • On the 2nd and 4th pics, I think you can make out a tail band.  This doesn't differentiate Kestrel from Harrier, but it makes me feel better that it might be one of those.  I also might see a faint cap on its head, but that might be wishful thinking.
  • I do not see a harrier's white rump.  But that area is washed out by sunlight so I don't think you can draw any conclusions.
  • Head and neck do not look blocky enough for either raptor.  However, I'm thinking that might be an illusion caused by the lighting.

Anyhow, I am leaning towards American Kestrel.  Any thoughts?

Thanks in advance!

 

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Whoops, spotted a typo.  My estimate for wingspan of the mystery bird is 26-30"... not 26-20".

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My first thought was a flycatcher, like an Eastern Phoebe or Kingbird, since it's common to see them hovering over ponds.  But after looking at the photos some more, I'm wondering if it could be a pigeon.

Edited by The Bird Nuts
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1 hour ago, Jim W said:

I googled hovering birds.  Other than hummingbirds, other birds known to hover include American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, Osprey and Kites. 

Kingfishers will hover too, although this bird is definitely not a kingfisher either.

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At first glance I also thought pigeon (body structure and especially the head) but hovering and suggested size do not compute.

I tried to get some more detail out of the image but not much left, top half of the bird washed out.

Whatbird ID-.jpg

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This is screaming Great Crested Flycatcher to me. The 3rd and 4th photo makes the bird look like it has a crest. Behavior fits too as all flycatchers hover sometimes. 

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3 hours ago, urban snipe said:

could be a mourning dove?

Mourning Dove would have a tapered tail. However, a pigeon/dove sp. certainly seems possible for this bird.

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Thanks everyone!  Because of the head, Mourning Dove or Pigeon had crossed my mind too.  I had discounted them because of the flight pattern.  However, I suppose it is possible there were two birds there ( I did have to look away and get my camera).  Thinking back, it didn't hover for very long... maybe it was just a random odd occurrence.

No way to know with this washed picture, but I'll file it a "possible" Rock Pigeon.  In my vernacular, that means 50% chance (my lowest rating).  That's also the safe call.  Great Crested FC would be a new one for me and I wouldn't want to use these crappy pics to try to call it.

 

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