Saturday, January 16, 2016

Zone-tailed Hawk at the House

Wow, this is a gem of a backyard find for us. As we pulled into the driveway this afternoon, a group of turkey vultures were swooping around as they often do prior to the big kettles forming near sunset. One bird flew over the car in front of us that at first blush looked like a smaller, more compact specimen. However, I noticed a strong white bar on its tail and called it out to Danielle saying, "what was that?!" I dashed inside to get a camera and the binoculars. I was lucky to see it again shortly after when it made a few more passes and got a solid identification: A Zone-tailed Hawk. This is a lifer for us and, looking at records on eBird, possibly the first reported around Georgetown. Normally this species is found further south and west during the summer season. The article at Cornell Lab of Ornithology notes that the zone-tailed often flies with turkey vultures and that it may have evolved similar coloration for mimicry, allowing it to sneak up on prey that would mistake it as a non-threatening vulture. Interestingly, twice I saw the hawk having to veer down out the way as a vulture took a quick dive at it. Perhaps it is not a very welcome mimic. After Danielle posted the sighting to the Facebook group TEXBIRDS, the image was archived at for Williamson Co. Region 6.

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