Friday, December 25, 2009

Melanistic Buteo

Harris's Hawk
(Parabuteo unicinctus harrisi)

While exploring the Texas landscape west of San Antonio, my daughter spotted this beauty. She's not a birder, but she has the eye! Even from a distance, and traveling 65 mph, she was able to tell that this bird was different enough from the hundreds of Red-tail Hawks that dotted the trees along the roadways, to warrant turning around to take a better look.
                                                                                                                                         A buteo of the scrub prairies             found in South Texas and other semi-arid habitats, the Harris's Hawk is probably my most favorite of all the raptors.  Now, those that know me best would tell you it's because they are so easy to identify, knowing how I struggle with identifying  birds of prey.  But the truth of the matter is they are simply gorgeous birds!  You can't see it in my photo, but they are a chocolate brown with chestnut shoulders.  Absolutely stiking!  They have a white band at the tip of a tail, and in flight, sport a bright white rump patch like the Northern Harrier.  For a better view of Harris's Hawks in all their  splendor, check out these captivating photos at:

I find it most interesting that the the Harris's Hawk are such social birds.  They live and hunt in family groups consisting of sometimes up to ten  individuals, but most regularly 2 - 6.  How smart is that?  This gives them the opportunity to snag a jack rabbit once in awhile, a welcome break from snakes, lizards, and large insects!  Another most interesting fact is that the female can be up to 40% larger than the male.  This phenomenon is called reverse sexual dimorphism.  I think, but I'm not sure, that this allows the female to protect herself and her nest and family while her mate is away to ensure survival of the species.  Just a guess. 

Although it's population is declining in the US, the Harris's Hawk was on the 2002 Watchlist, but is not on the 2007 Watchlist.  For more information, go to:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009