Do all Red-tailed Hawks show dark patagials? Well, yes, but…
Dark patagials (or “patagial bars”) is a well-known ID trait for light-morph Red-tailed Hawks, but some show very faint patagials, appearing as if they lack dark “bars” altogether. This is more common with juvenile Red-tails than adults, and with Eastern Red-tails rather than Western. Interestingly, heavily marked Harlan’s can have faint patagials compared to heavily marked light-morphs of other races, but light-morphs of any age or race of Red-tail can show faint patagials.
On the other hand, there are very pale Red-tailed Hawks with bold patagial marks, so be careful to ID or dismiss an ID based on this one trait. Below are a few Red-tails of various subspecies with faint patagials and a few lightly marked birds with bold patagials. By the way, I have seen other people’s photos that are even better examples than these. Enjoy!
This post was written by Jerry Liguori. You can read more about Jerry and his legacy at HawkWatch International here.