Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2020-13

Common name:

Zion-tailed Hawk

Scientific name: Buteo albonotatus
Date: 4/14/2020
Time: 19:33
Length of time observed: 5 minutes
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex: Unknown
Location: Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park
County: Washington
Elevation: 8000
Distance to bird: 1200
Optical equipment: 10x50 Vortex binoculars
Weather: Clear
Light Conditions: Sunset side light
Description:        Size of bird: Large
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Buteo
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Dark
(Description:)            Bill Type: Did not see
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Large buteo flying with group of half dozen turkey vultures though flapping a lot more than the vultures. Dark underwriting converts, lighter under primaries with black trailing edge. Feathered head. Black and white banded tail.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: N/A
Behavior: Soaring with small kettle of turkey vultures high over canyons.
Habitat: Above high ponderosa-forested mesa tops.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Similar to TUVU, though visibly different as previously explained. Every other buteo considered, but banded tail on this bird was distinctive and ruled out RTHA, SWHA, FEHA, RLHA. Tail too long to be a Common Black Hawk. Bird too big to be a Broad-winged.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Seen a couple in Washington County, and a few dozen elsewhere. I
worked as a raptor migration counter for a season so have certainly watched a fair number of raptors in general.
References consulted: Sibley
Description from: From memory
From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Jason K. Pietrzak
Observer's address: P.O. Box 965, Springdale, UT 84767
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird:  
Date prepared: 4/19/2020
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: I have seen ZTHA in this location in previous years and I think it s possible there are nesting birds in the area. I was in the area for a bird survey for a different species and was training a colleague. While we were walking and spotted the vultures above, I commented that I would not be surprised to see a ZTHA flying with them, and then we did. I always check every turkey vultures twice as a rule. The habitat in Kolob Canyons area of Zion looks very similar to ZTHA habitat I ve seen elsewhere. There are a tremendous number of rugged and remote canyons packed into this area with very few visitors to cause a disturbance. Most of the canyons have some water flow all spring and summer, and indeed I crossed a deep and long snow field. The mesas between canyons are covered in scrub and ponderosa forests and are virtually inaccessible. There s no telling what s going on up there!