Yearling Gray Hawk
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I’m back! I’ve spent the last week in Alaska photographing Brown Bears and several other wildlife species. I took over 7000 images during the week and have a mountain of material to wade through and process. It was a tremendously exciting and pleasurable week and I suspect you’ll be interested in and will enjoy some of my images. I anticipate posting the fruits of my labors beginning in a few days and it is likely that I’ll dedicate a number of posts to Alaska’s unique and spectacular wildlife.
Meanwhile let’s turn to a more local subject, a subject that one rarely sees. A couple of weeks ago my friend Ned Harris was kind enough to show me a yearling Gray Hawk living in Cochise County, southeast of Tucson. The bird is unique in that its plumage is neither that of a juvenile bird nor that of an adult, but rather, it is a melange of juvenile and adult plumage.
Adult Gray Hawks are, as their name implies, predominately gray in color with gray and white patterned breasts and abdomens, and tails that are banded gray and white. Fledglings and juveniles are mostly chestnut colored. This bird has lost some of its juvenile plumage. Its breast and abdomen are growing out gray and white and there are gray feathers on its back and wings. However, it still retains mostly juvenile plumage.
Most Gray Hawks live in Latin America. There is a very small population of these birds in southern Arizona, perhaps a couple hundred nesting pairs. They tend to hang out in large cottonwood trees that grow adjacent to streams. They often hide in the cottonwoods’ dense crowns where they are invisible to the casual walker or hiker.
However, if adult Gray Hawks are rare in the United States, youngsters making the transition from childhood to adult are even rarer. The bird depicted here is the first and only one of its type that I’ve observed. The plumage is remarkable, sort of a crazy quit of chestnut, gray, and white. In a few months this bird will look completely different, having grown in the all-gray and white adult plumage. Meanwhile, it is a highly unusual individual.
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400 ISII zoom lens+1.4x extender, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f8 @ 1/1640.