October 2021 Photo Quiz

Tony Leukering
Fairborn, OH
[email protected]

It’s that time of year. The time when raptorphiles head to the mountains, the shores of large lakes, the coastal promontories, the riverine bluffs to watch for southbound raptors. However, with a bit of luck and a lot of scanning the sky, one can encounter raptors in active migration virtually anywhere on land. I encountered such unexpectedly recently; the bird in the quiz photo is one of the >40 southbound raptors I and a traveling companion noted.

The bird has narrow, kinked wings; a long, narrow tail; and a not-inconsequential head. It is mostly pale below with some black bits highlighting the wings. The bird also looks narrow-bodied.

Raptor identification at hawkwatch sites, perhaps more so than with identification of any other group of birds, is based primarily on shape and structure features. The skilled, experienced hawk-counter can ID dark blobs in the distant sky on shape features alone. They need to be able to do that, as a lot of the birds never approach closely, and the lighting is often difficult. Not to put anyone off, but this one would be simple for that skilled, experienced hawk-counter. Firstly, because it’s right overhead. Secondly, the bird’s shape is distinctive, even in this kink-winged appearance. Finally… well, let’s leave that for later.

What species is represented here?

Photos and answers are supplied by Tony Leukering, a field ornithologist based in southeast Colorado, with strong interests in bird migration, distribution, and identification. He has worked for five different bird observatories from coast to coast and considers himself particularly adept at taking quiz photos (that is, bad pictures!). Leukering is a member of the Colorado Bird Records Committee and had been a reviewer for eBird since its inception. He is also interested in most everything else that flies, particularly moths and odonates.