Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2019-23

Common name:

Zone-tailed Hawk

Scientific name: Buto albonotatus
Date: August 16 & 17, 2019
Time: 6:30 PM and 7:15 PM
Length of time observed: 3 minutes and 1 minute
Number: 2
Age: Adult
Sex: Unknown
Location: Pine Park
County: Washington
Distance to bird:  
Optical equipment: 8x42 binoculars and camera with 500 mm lens
Weather: Clear
Light Conditions: Excellent
Description:        Size of bird:  
(Description:)       Basic Shape:  
(Description:)  Overall Pattern:  
(Description:)            Bill Type:  
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
On the evening of August 16:
Shortly after arriving at Pine Park and setting up camp, an adult zone-tailed hawk flew overhead. It started high above and was briefly obstructed by the pines, but then reappeared minutes later, soaring quite low and providing excellent looks and allowing me to get decent photos.

On the evening of August 17:
After returning to camp for the evening, my girlfriend pointed out a large bird flying above. This was also an adult zone-tailed hawk and was again flying low enough to provide excellent looks. This bird disappeared rather quickly but I was again able to get decent photos.

Upon later comparing photos of each bird, it was obvious that these were two different individuals. The bird observed on 8/17 was clearly in molt and showed worn primaries. The bird observed on 8/16 did not appear to be in molt. There were other subtle differences in plumage that further pointed to these being different individuals. These are evident in the photos provided.

Soaring buteos reminiscent of turkey vultures in flight style, shape, and wing color. Pale and barred primaries and secondaries with dark trailing edge. This contrasted with a very dark wing lining and body. Large, dark feathered head with yellow cere. Tail was black and white, including a narrow white tip and one wide white band with a narrower white band above. Yellow legs.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: Silent
Behavior: Soaring above ponderosa pines.
Habitat: Ponderosa pine/pinyon/juniper/some riparian.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Turkey vulture:
Superficially very similar, but turkey vultures would show a very small, unfeathered head, pinkish legs, a grayish tail with no banding, and no barring on the wings.

Common black hawk:
Shows much broader wings when soaring, shorter tail, and longer legs that almost reach the tip of the tail.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
As far as I'm concerned, these were my long overdue lifer zone-tails. I may have observed one several years ago in southern Arizona, but that was before I got into birding and I wasn't certain at the time.

I have observed many (thousands) of turkey vultures and probably 15+ common black hawks.
References consulted: Sibley Field Guide, various online resources
Description from: From memory
From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Mike Schijf
Observer's address:  
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Melissa Buchmann also got great looks at both birds.
Date prepared: 8/24/2019
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: