Birds of Arizona – Red-tailed Hawk ( Buteo jamaicensis )

For casual bird watchers, identifying a particular bird can be quite a challenge. One would think that a Red-tailed Hawk would look very much like every other Red-tailed Hawk, but it isn’t quite that easy.

Unfortunately, there are often variations on a theme. One problem, for example, is that a juvenile bird often looks quite different than it does as an adult. This can reveal itself with differnt feather patterns or colors or perhaps a less developed feature that, when the bird is mature, would be quite prominent.

Facing this challenge, I often farm out the job of identification to the wonderful world of birders on the Internet. That is how I was able to determine that the bird below is a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk.

As you can see, we have a power pole near our house and very often one hawk or another will stop by to enjoy a meal or keep a lookout for the next one. While they are atop this perch, I am often able to walk close to them to capture a portrait.

Red-tailed Hawk
As I approached, the bird wanted to keep an eye on me.

Red-tailed Hawk
Here the bird decided to turn around to face me.

Red-tailed Hawk
When approached, hawks don’t necessarily run away, but will often just stare back!

Read more identifying Red-tailed Hawks – Telling Juvenile from Adult Red-tailed Hawks

Metadata for the bottom Photograph

File Name: 000022_49.CR2
Capture time: 9:55:03 AM
Capture date: February 6, 2016
Exposure: 1/640 sec @ f/6.5
Focal Length: 215mm
ISO: 200
Canon PowerShot SX50HS
Lens: 4.3-215mm
Edited in Lightroom

See previous JBRish posts about birds HERE



All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross – 2018

Hassayampa Preserve Bird Walk – 20180203

It was quite a while since we had a good dose of nature and the warmer than usual winter has given us added impetus to “go outside!” An opportunity presented itself which allowed us to combine two of our interests, bird watching and hiking. As I have explained on these pages before, I am an “occasional birder.” I enjoy birds and bird identification, but I am not ardent. I take it as it comes and it adds enjoyment to my wanderings.

We registered for a guided bird walk at the Hassayampa River Preserve in Wickenburg, AZ. This is riparian zone that has running water all year long; a rarity for the desert. As such, many birds are attracted to this wooded environment. The warmer temperatures have brought featehred visitors that don’t usually come this far south during February.

The inviting ponds at the Hassayampa River Preserve

The inviting ponds at the Hassayampa River Preserve

If you have never done bird watching, then it may be difficult understand the highs and lows of the experience. There will be those in the group who see so many birds while you might be gazing at the leaves and branches and wondering: “What do they see?” or “Where is that bird?”

Below is an example of one of the frustrations. This bird appeared on the top of a nearby Cottonwood tree. It was vey much in view although quite a distance away. Unless an observer knew this bird from previous experience, it would be difficult to identify.

Phainopepla hard to identify from a distance

I had seen this bird several times before so I knew it was a Phainopepla. One distinguishing characteristic is its red eye which, because of the distance and lighting, was not visible. The black tuft on top of the head is also a distinguishing feature. I was able to get my best picture to date of this bird in November. You can see it HERE.

When I attended my first guided bird walk, I was surprised to learn that most birders don’t rely on sightings to identify the bird at first. They identify the call or song and then look for the specific bird. I must admit that this is a skill which mostly eludes me. I do know certain very defined bird calls like the Mourning Dove, Cactus Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, etc., but all those chip-chip-chips and too-wees just escape my grasp. This is one reason I greatly appreciate having a guide.

The bird in the picture below, for example, was identified as a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The birds are particularly difficult to identify and even more so to photograph. They jump around incessantly. Although this bird is totally shaded, the guide followed it from several trees and was able to identify it for us. I take her word for it!

Flitting Ruby-crowned singled silhouette

Another photo of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The most distinguishing mark of this bird is a red tuft on the top if the head. The angle, lighting and other factors did not capture this marking.

Better view of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet

You can see much better photos of this bird HERE.

There were some birds that were more conveniently situated and thus more easily identifiable such as this Hermit Thrush. The problem here is that the bird has very distinctive spots on its whiteish underbelly, but as you will note, that characteristic was not clearly visible from the back.

Hermit Thrush

The lesser Goldfinches were a bit more cooperative once the morning warmed a bit. They would cling to the thin branches of a nearby bush and pose for a while. The trick here is to take a number of pictures as the autofocus (which I use for birding*) will sometimes choose to focus on a foreground branch and render the bird out-of-focus.

Lesser Goldfinch

Lesser Goldfinch

Black Phoebes often will flit away and then return to the same branch from which they flew so it may be easy to wait a moment while gaining focus on the perch and then snap the shot once the bird returns. The first shot has only the back of the bird, but it later turned sideways for a profile shot.

Black Phoebe

Black Phoebe

The next series is of a Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Woodpeckers, creepers and other similar birds cling to the side of trees and climb upward. They will then fly to a nearby tree and begin to hop while ascending that tree. It appears to me that they know when they are being watched and they scoot to the side of the tree away from the viewer so they can hide. At least it seems that way!

While the pictures are a bit blurry because the bird was madly pecking away, the distinctive markings are visible.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

One last sighting before we left revealed three Western Bluebirds sitting on the same branch. They were catching the mid-morning rays of the sun. The blue of their backs does not show that well, but the rufous color of their underside is clearly visible.

Western Bluebirds

Additional sightings by me and others, but not photographed:

  • Abert’s Towhee
  • American Coot
  • Brown Creeper
  • Canyon Wren
  • House Finch
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow
  • Plumbeous Vireo
  • Verdin

* NOTE – The only camera I used during this bird walk was my Canon SX50 HS which is a bridge camera with a telephoto zoom lens. Pictures are best at low ISO (200 and below) which limits the aperture and shutter speed. The aim of these photographs was not to capture beautiful pictures of birds, but to take pictures that would enable identification. Of course it would be wonderful to have an excellent photo along the way!

See previous JBRish posts about birds HERE



All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross – 2018

Bird Photo – American Kestrel

I was walking by my picture window yesterday afternoon and I saw this bird perched on a wire near a telephone pole. I hadn’t seen this bird in our neighborhood before, but recognized its hawk-like persona and thought it might be an American Kestrel.

I posted the picture on the Bird Forum and sure enough some of the experienced birders there confirmed it was an American Kestrel. They ventured, perhaps, that this is a female because of the coloration. I am sorry that the bird was so far away, but these were the best pictures I could get.

An American Kestrel, Cave Creek, AZ

An American Kestrel, Cave Creek, AZ

An American Kestrel, Cave Creek, AZ

An American Kestrel, Cave Creek, AZ

Try as I might, I could not get that bird to turn around!

Birds at the Gilbert Water Ranch – 20150412 – Part 2

NOTE: The order in which the birds and narratives appear are not the actual order in which they were seen during our bird walk.

As a follow up to Part 1 of our bird walk at the Gilbert Water Ranch, in Gilbert, AZ I am posting some additional pictures and narratives. As you might expect at something called a water ranch, this is a habitat for numerous ducks and other water fowl although having it in a desert is somewhat unique. The Mallard pictured below watched us as we watched him strike up a nice profile.


We also came across what appears to me (and I’m no expert) a Snowy Egret. He was looking intently in the water for some victuals.

Snowy Egret

Every once in a while he looked up to allow me to snap this shot of him.

Snowy Egret

The group spotted a nest in this tree and there was a fair amount of activity around it. We saw a Verdin poised next to it. There was another nest nearby and we were wondering whether one was a fledgling nest while the other was home for adults.


Although I had seen American Coots on a number of occasions, this is my best picture so far of the bird with its white beak. I also like the color of the eye against the dark feathers; nice! While this bird looks somewhat like a duck, it has a classification of its own.

American Coo

This fellow looked to me like a Great Egret.

Great Egret

One of the last birds we saw this day, which was a surprise sighting since we were sitting around having snacks and reviewing which birds we had identified, was a Cassin’s Kingbird. He just appeared high in the tree and stayed for a while so we could marvel at his beautiful coloration.

TCassin's Kingbird

I will finish the bird walk next week with some more notes and photographs. Which bird photo did you find most interesting?

Birds at the Gilbert Water Ranch – 20150412 – Part 1

I awoke at 3:30am this morning to prepare for my “bird watch” outing at the Gilbert Water Ranch in Gilbert, Arizona. We had to be at the park by 6am and my wife and I were going to car pool with a person we had never met so we needed to be on time. Their home was 22-25 minutes away and they wanted to leave at 5:25. Of course I needed my requisite cup(s) of coffee and I also needed to get my STATUS QUOtes out to my mailing list.

[Self promotion here: If you like quotes, really good quotes, check out my STATUS QUOTes posted daily on this blog. Click here – STATUS QUOTes– to view the entire category.]

In any event, all went smoothly and we met up with our tour guide, Kathe, and proceeded to the Gilbert Water Ranch arriving on schedule. We saw a good number of birds this day. I might also mention that this is a transition time for birds in our area and some are moving out while less are moving in ahead of the long, hot summer days.

As we started our tour, a some birds already on my seen list were spotted. The first new-ish experience for me was a Mourning Dove in the crook of a Saguaro cactus. I have seen many Mourning Doves, but not in the arms of a Saguaro! Most likely this was a nest built by a Curve-billed Thrasher and usurped by the dove.

Mourning Dove in Saguaro Cactus Nest

As we walked along the paths meandering through the reclamation ponds, we came across a white-crowned Sparrow. I am sure I had seen these before, but never noted it so this was a new entry on my list.

white-crowned sparrow

Even though this is the desert, we do have riparian and oasis-type areas that draw water birds. One such resident this day was the Neotropic Cormorant.

Neotropical Cormorant

Walking on the path ahead of us was an Abert’s Towhee.

Disclaimer here: There wasn’t much light early on the walk because it was cloudy. My Superzoom really needs a lot of light to render crisp, clear shots so this may be a bit “fuzzy,” but certainly good enough for my bird-spotting history.

Abert's Towhee

There were several sightings of Great Blue Herons. This particular bird remained perched on a man-made platform for some time so we could get a clear picture.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

When we came to the bird below, there was some discussion whether this was a Lesser Yellowlegs or a Greater Yellowlegs. For those non-birders, this is what we do! After referring to the the Sibley Field Guide and a brief debate, it was decided that based on the size of the bird and markings, it was a Lesser Yellowlegs.

Lesser Yellowlegs

As I might have mentioned in one of my previous posts somewhere on this blog and most certainly on my previous Internet persona, Gardening on the Moon, we live on the edge of the desert and one bird we have in large numbers is the Gambel’s Quail. These birds are round and not exactly aerodynamic and thus they would rather walk or run than fly. Approaching them in a car often causes them to scurry ahead, but when forced, they do take to the air. It is unusual to spot them perched high in a tree as the bird below was spotted posing for its closeup.

TGambel's Quail

The last bird I will present today is a Green Heron. It is an unusual name for a majestic bird that doesn’t actually contain much green anywhere in its plumage! Supposedly under certain conditions, it has a blue-green “gloss.”

Green Heron

We saw a good many other birds this day and I will post our other sightings soon. Until then, I hope you have enjoyed following me along my birding journey.