Bleached Raptors

02 May 2014

I love when people send me hawk photos. It allows me to see birds and plumage variants I never would have seen otherwise. This time of year you will see a number of birds (especially juveniles from the previous summer) faded and molting, which prompted me to post this blog entry since it applies to the spring season. A word of caution, birds can look odd when faded, worn, or molting! They often look pale-headed, and washed out (bleached) overall, especially the upperside. This makes juvenile Broad-winged Hawks appear more Gray Hawk-like on the face, Red-tails more difficult to assess to race, ageing eagles more difficult, and the list goes on.... Here is an example of a bird Steve Mlodinow shared with me from Colorado. Note how a normally dark bird (particularly the head) such as this juvenile from last year can appear very pale in spring/summer. Also, here is a bird Cathy Sheeter sent me last year, a Red-tailed Hawk from Colorado molting into its first adult plumage, note how pale the head is from fading! And if you like fine art, check out Cathy's award-winning artwork @cathysheeter.com

I don't want to get too detailed here, just like to keep it easy to digest. So, beware of bleach raptors from April through June. And of course, if anyone has questions about a hawk they photographed that looks odd, feel free to contact me and I'll see if I can decipher it.

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