Utah Birds
Photo Quiz Answer

      Quiz # 005  (October 2010)




This month was tough. Only 25% of the responses were correct and the incorrect answers included more species than any quiz so far. Here is the answer by this months’ guest, Jerry Liguori:
At first glance, this month's quiz bird appears to have long, pointed, falcon-like wings and a brownish upperside with a banded tail. Well, that description suggests it is a Merlin. But, is the shape and plumage truly a falcon? From some perspectives, the shape of a bird can appear unorthodox. For instance, birds viewed wing-on appear stockier than usual, and birds viewed head-on or going away appear slimmer / longer-winged than usual. What does the plumage tell us about this bird? First off, the eyes are yellow, and since all North American falcons have dark eyes, we can rule out any falcon. But some may still wonder why this bird is not a Merlin because it superficially resembles one. Well, the nape is rufous, the upperwing coverts are rufous-tipped, the pale bands on the tail are broad, not narrow, there is a slight bulge along the secondaries that falcons lack, Merlins have spots along the topside of the primaries, not bands, the bird lacks "sideburns", and the overall color is less slaty than that of a Merlin.
In fact, the tail pattern of only a few dark bands with broad paler bands' fits only the accipiters, so the bird is an accipiter, and a juvenile due to its brownish upperside. Juvenile Broad-winged Hawks can have a similar tail pattern but they typically have numerous bands on the tail, show a large head and bill, broad back, lack uniform streaking on the chest, show pale mottling along the upperwing coverts, and lack the rufous nape (along with a few other minor head plumage differences).
So, which accipiter is this? Goshawk can be eliminated because this bird lacks the slaty and buffy tones along the upperside, and buffy head and auriculars (cheeks) that juvenile Goshawks show. Besides the eye-line is not well-defined, the tail appears relatively short, squared, and darker overall than on Goshawks. Then, how do we know if this is a Cooper's or Sharp-shinned Hawk? Well, the tail tip on Cooper's Hawks is rounded when folded (only worn or molting Cooper's Hawks show square-tipped tails) and has a broad, white tip, which this bird lacks. Cooper's Hawks also have an extremely long tail, a larger head and bill (head is typically paler as well), show prominent buffy edges to the uppertail coverts, and have yellow-green eyes as juveniles (not bright yellow). Therefore, our quiz bird is a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk.
Thanks again to Jerry for doing the quiz for us.


Correct Answers (in order received):
  1. Mark Stackhouse
  2. Leah Lewis
  3. Eric Huish
  4. Robert Visconti
  5. Bryant Olsen
  6. Matt Mills
  7. Oliver Hansen
  8. Ryan O'Donnell
  9. Bill Fenimore

Incorrect Answers:
     Merlin - 8
     Broad-winged Hawk – 4
     Northern Goshawk - 3
     Cooper’s Hawk - 4
     Ferruginous Hawk - 1
     Red-shouldered hawk - 1
     Northern Harrier - 2