Red-shouldered/Red-tailed Hawk Hybrid?
A woman posted a link to a photo of a raptor that has been stumping Vermont birders as to whether it is a red-tailed hawk or a red-shouldered hawk. I just looked at the photo on that page and thought "red-tail" to myself and didn't dig any deeper. A few replied to her email to the list that it was a red-tail and started speculating on which sub species.
Then Sibley stepped in.
He dug further into the website and looked at this photo and this photo. I have to admit, the second photo is a bit more intriguing and I can see the features that would make someone think "red-shouldered hawk". Then, there is the link to the bird's call. That sounds like a red-shoulder to me. So, here is what Sibley had to say:
"What an interesting bird! While I had a momentary first impression of “western Red-tail” that was quickly dispelled as I looked at more details and I think this can only be a hybrid Red-tailed x Red-shouldered Hawk!
The pattern of orange breast with sparsely streaked and barred belly seems like a mixture of the two species and not normal for either, the posture and body shape in some photos looks like Red-tailed, in others like Red-shouldered, and several photos show clear reddish accents in the smaller wing coverts which is wrong for Red-tailed. I’m sure a careful analysis would reveal lots more “mixed” characteristics."
A hybrid red-tail and red-shoulder? Are you kidding me? Who knew? I'll be curious to see how this pans out. Boy, what I wouldn't give to get a feather off this bird to send in for some DNA analysis.