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Hawks at a Distance

Hawks at a Distance: Identification of Migrant Raptors

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Hawks at a Distance
    Book Description:

    The ultimate must-have guide for identifying migrant raptors,Hawks at a Distanceis the first volume to focus on distant raptors as they are truly seen in the field. Jerry Liguori, a leading expert on North American raptors, factors in new information and approaches for identifying twenty-nine species of raptor in various lighting situations and settings. The field guide's nineteen full-color portraits, 558 color photos, and 896 black-and-white images portray shapes and plumages for each species from all angles. Useful flight identification criteria are provided and the accompanying text discusses all aspects of in-flight hawk identification, including flight style and behavior. Concentrating on features that are genuinely observable at a distance, this concise and practical field guide is ideal for any aspiring or experienced hawk enthusiast.

    The first guide to focus on distant raptors as they are viewed in the fieldNew information and approaches for identifying distant raptorsIllustrates twenty-nine species in various lighting situations and settings558 color photos and 896 black-and-white images depicting plumage and shape characteristicsAll aspects of in-flight hawk identification, including flight style and behavior

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3826-4
    Subjects: Zoology, Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Pete Dunne

    It’s all about “the distance.” It’s always been about “the distance.” Ever since that first hominid ancestor fixed front-seated eyes on some dinosaur descendent, the challenge has been vaulting distance and getting across an invisible line. The line that defines the border between “Too Far” and “Close Enough.”

    Too Far. A region marked by frustration where birds lie beyond the limits of ambition and skill.

    Close Enough. A happy place where birds, and our designs upon them, meet and become one.

    Well, Close Enough just got closer (in fact, you are holding the keys to the kingdom in your hands)...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    Identifying raptors is similar to solving a mystery by piecing together clues. By far, the greatest challenge of raptor identification is naming distant birds. This is because plumage details (and sometimes flight style and structure) can be difficult to judge from afar. Even for the most experienced observers, identifying raptors based on plumage alone can be flawed. With this in mind, imagine how difficult it is to distinguish two species that are practically identical in plumage, like Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks. Even a distinctive plumage trait like the red tail of an adult Red-tailed Hawk can be difficult to view...

    (pp. 14-36)

    At first glance, accipiters are recognizable in the field by their long-tailed, short-winged silhouette. It is often easy to conclude that Sharp-shinned Hawks (the smallest accipiters) are small in size because of their quick movements and buoyant flight style, and that Goshawks (the largest accipiters) are large because of their slower, steadier flight. However, the three North American accipiters are very similar in appearance to each other in the field and judging size can be misleading. Distinguishing the accipiters from each other in flight requires considerable practice using a combination of shape, flight style, and plumage. Shape and flight-style traits...

  8. NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus cyaneus)
    (pp. 37-43)

    The Northern Harrier is the only North American representative of the genusCircus. Harriers are often compared to owls, due to their prominent facial disk, acute hearing, and ability to hunt and migrate in darkness. However, they hunt most often during the day, coursing low over fields and marshes; hence their former name “Marsh Hawk.” Harriers are distinctive in flight, often identifiable by their delicate side-to-side teetering mannerism, especially at low altitudes when searching out prey. Although wobbly in demeanor, Harriers are able to maneuver quickly and display bursts of speed like other hawks. Harriers are extremely buoyant, appearing weightless...

    (pp. 44-100)

    Buteos are large raptors with long, broad wings, except Broad-winged Hawks, which are smaller and stockier than most other buteos. Ferruginous and Swainson’s Hawks have long, somewhat slim wings, but the wings of Swainson’s Hawks are always sharply pointed at the tips. Broad-winged Hawks also have pointed wing tips in all postures. All buteos can show pointed wings in a glide. When gliding, Ferruginous, Rough-legged, and especially Swainson’s Hawks show a more exaggerated “M” shape to the wings than Red-shouldered, Broad-winged, and Red-tailed Hawks.

    All buteos are adept at soaring and do so regularly on migration, sometimes in large flocks,...

    (pp. 101-126)

    With long, narrow, pointed wings, falcons are built for speed. They are able to chase down prey (including other birds) in flight, and can migrate long distances using powered flight. Falcons are extremely steady fliers, excluding Kestrels, which are buoyant, delicate, and not nearly as swift as other falcons. American Kestrels are also the only falcons to hover as they hunt. All falcons hold their wings flat or slightly bowed in all postures. American Kestrels and Merlins are small, only slightly larger than jays, whereas Peregrine and Prairie Falcons are larger than crows. Gyrfalcons range from nearly equal in size...

    (pp. 127-156)

    Black Vultures are large, black birds, appearing only slightly smaller in flight than Turkey Vultures. They are stocky overall with broad, squared-off wings, small heads, and very short, square-tipped tails. This is the only raptor in North America whose feet sometimes project beyond the tail. The Black Vulture’s flat-winged profile appears similar in shape to that of Bald Eagle when soaring at eye level, but Black Vultures are overall stockier in comparison with smaller heads and shorter wings and tails. Black Vultures soar on flat wings that arch forward (Turkey Vultures and Bald Eagles hold their wings straight across), or...

    (pp. 157-170)

    California Condors are massive birds with extremely long, somewhat broad wings that can reach nearly ten feet in length. Because of its size, it rarely takes flight unless lift is optimal. Condors appear extremely slow moving and steady in flight. They typically fly with a slight dihedral, occasionally utilizing extremely heavy, slow wing beats to help keep them aloft. Reintroduction efforts have successfully placed condors in central and southern California, Arizona, Utah, and northern Baja California, where they are now year-round residents, occasionally drifting farther north in spring.

    Juvenileshave grayish heads, and are black overall with white on the...

  13. Shapes
    (pp. 171-190)

    Becoming familiar with structure (the shape) of a bird is a critical part of raptor field identification. The ability to differentiate the shapes of each raptor species, particularly wing shape, is often the key to identifying raptors in the field. Many species of raptor share similar plumages, especially at a distance or in the field. In these instances, structure is often the key feature that helps to differentiate among species. A combination of structural traits is more reliable than a single plumage trait in hawk identification.

    Birders typically learn the silhouettes of soaring raptors first, since that is how they...

  14. Photo Credits
    (pp. 191-191)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 192-192)
  16. Index
    (pp. 193-193)