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?