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More on Rough-legged Hawk at Coyote Hills
Thu, 25 Jan 2001 08:29:40 -0800
From: Tom Condit

Well, I went into the living room last night with a copy of Bill Scoggins' post and a couple of bird books in my hand, and said to Marsha: "Guess what? That might not have been a Bald Eagle we saw at Coyote Hills after all!"

"Hmm," she replied, "I thought it was too small for a Bald Eagle and I was wondering about the fact that the white went clear down onto the chest instead of just being in the head and throat area." (M spent some time in Alaska, where Bald Eagles are "trash birds", in every sense of the word.)

We looked at the plates in Clark and Wheeler, Hawks (Peterson Field Guides) and The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds rather than the National Geographic Society Guide. Plate 10 in Clark and Wheeler plainly shows the underwing pattern Carol Donohue was talking about, and the head and breast pattern are totally consistent with what we saw. The photo in ASFGNAB of a light phase Rough-legged Hawk perched (No. 295) was the real clincher, though. This is exactly the affect and overall light-dark balance of the Coyote Hills bird. (Typical of this semi-guide, there is only one photo, and it doesn't conform to the written description of the bird in the text.)

Compare this with immature Bald Eagles, who have dark heads with white streaking, dark throats and (frequently) pale bellies with dark streaking, rather than dark bellies and light-colored chests.

I'm going into all this detail only in case it will be useful to other people in unravelling the same material.

Anyway, kudos to Carol Donohue for a great job of spotting the unexpected!

Tom Condit

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Re: Rough-legged Hawk at Coyote Hills
Sun, 28 Jan 2001 21:21:49 -0800
From: Lillian Fujii

On Saturday, January 27, Steve Hayashi and I went to Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont. The Rough-legged Hawk was still near (southwest of) the entry kiosk at Coyote Hills. The light is very bad early in the morning. The bird was also pretty far from the road. Field marks can be well seen with scope from about at least 11:30 AM, when we tried to look at the bird the second time.

There were a lot of birds, including, in no particular order: Rock Wren and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher above the first parking lot on the left, and also in the vicinity, over 1 dozen Tree Swallows, Northern Harriers, White-tailed Kites, Loggerhead Shrike, White-throated Swift.

Happy birding. Lillian Fujii

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Unusual hawk at Berkeley Meadow
Tue, 30 Jan 2001 09:54:24 -0800
From: Larry Tunstall

On Sunday, Karen DeMello and I found an unusual hawk in the "Berkeley Meadow", just north of University Ave and just east of Marina Blvd at the Berkeley Marina. It was roughly the size of a Red-tailed Hawk, but perched in very small branches at the top of a small tree. When it flew, it flapped fairly continuously, gliding only when banking for turns, and hunted by hovering like a kestrel.

The underside was mostly gray and white, the top side fairly dark brown. The tail underneath was white at the base, with a gray band at or near the end. There was a very faint light rump marking, but not as light or distinct as the usual Northern Harrier rump patch. There appeared to be very faint patagial marks, but the underside of the bird generally appeared something like Sibley's illustration of a juvenile southwestern redtail, but with patagial markings more like his drawing of the juvenile Krider's redtail. I couldn't see much sign of dark wrist patches. However, it was hard to get good looks because of the constant flapping when the bird was in the air.

The upperside, in contrast, was quite dark brown, and the upperside of the tail was brown, not red.

After much debate and hunting through books, we decided it might be some variation of a Rough-legged Hawk, which neither of us had ever seen. (Being so entranced with Sibley's fine upper and lower in-flight views, I forgot to check the legs!)

On Monday, Tom Condit spent some time studying the bird with a scope. He concluded that it might be an immature female Northern Harrier, but he agreed that it does not have all the field marks for any species in the books.

So, maybe someone with lots of hawk experience can get out there and get a look at it and provide some enlightenment. From Hwy 80 in Berkeley, take University Ave toward the bay. When the road jogs to the left, turn right instead and go toward Cesar Chavez Park. Watch for the hawk in the field on the right. Both Sunday and Monday it was hunting or perching in the area not far from Marina Blvd, across the street from the hotel, but it was spending some time down on the ground out among the bushes.

Good birding, Larry

Larry Tunstall
El Cerrito CA

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