On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
It’s Albatrossity Monday! Origuy takes us to Italy for a day. Who goes to Italy just for one day? Maybe spend another day in Italy soon. TKH takes us on another adventure, and we end the week with Steve from Mendocino and JanieM.
I have really enjoyed our Christmas When We Were Kids posts these last couple of years, so I’d like to do that again for the two weeks before Christmas, starting a week from today. So hard to believe that Christmas is so close! I kind of feel like I’m in a holding pattern, waiting for the results of the GA runoff. I imagine we’ll know the results tomorrow, and then the world will start spinning again.
Anyway… please start sending in your Christmas pics!
Something different for this week. As you may know, my corner of the continent is a winter home for Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) from the north, who find our winter climate and abundance of small rodents to be quite hospitable. I have been taking pictures of winter redtails in this area for the past several years, and have become fascinated by the tremendous variety of plumages for this raptor.
There are 7 or 8 fairly distinctive subspecies found in the USA, and 5 of them winter here regularly. These subspecies also interbreed, so in addition there are intergrade birds, who share plumage characters of both parents (the word “hybrid” is reserved for crosses between species, “intergrade” is the term for crosses between subspecies). I’ve also figured out, finally, that there is no good single field mark for identifying these birds at the subspecies level; you need a combination of field marks to narrow down your choices. So you need multiple angles and views to really give yourself a chance at a subspecies (or intergrade) ID.
Photoshop allows me to combine images of the same bird, in which I can view the front, the back, the wing from top and/or bottom, and (most usefully) the topside of the tail. So here are some of those composites. I won’t bore you with pointing out all of the plumage characters. I’ll give you my best guess at a subspecies ID; feel free to speculate on those in the comments if you desire. Meanwhile, just enjoy some views of the most variable raptor on the planet.
Our standard summertime breeding subspecies, adult bird with a red tail. Buteo jamaicensis borealis. Click for larger image.
Juvenile bird (note the banded tail and yellow iris), hatched out in the spring of 2022 and experiencing its first winter ever. Click for larger image.
A visitor from the north, B. j. abieticola, Dark throat, lots of pigmentation on the underside. Click for larger image.
Another visitor from the north. Click for larger image.
All of the birds above are what is called a “light morph”, with substantial amounts of white on the plumage. This is a dark morph Harlan’s Hawk (B. j. harlani), a visitor from far northern Canada or even Alaska. A Red-tailed Hawk without the red tail. Click for larger image.
Another dark-morph, another Harlan’s Hawk. Also no red tail, but no resemblance between the tail of this one and the one above. Every Harlan’s Hawk has a different (and unique) tail pattern and color. Click for larger image.
From dark to light. This bird is probably an intergrade, but one of the parents was probably the lightest subspecies, Krider’s Hawk (B. j. kriderii). Click for larger image.
Another intergrade with some Krider’s lineage. Click for larger image.
Dark-morphs are known to occur in the Harlan’s subspecies and also in the western (B. j. calurus) subspecies. It is speculated that there might be dark morph birds in the northern (B. j. abieticola) subspecies as well. This could be one of those, this could be an intergrade. It’s a cool-looking bird, regardless. Click for larger image.
Light-morph bird that really doesn’t seem to fit neatly into any subspecies bin, at least IMHO. Click for larger image.