On Saturday, February 18, Bill and I had taken our dog to visit the Thurman Hutchins Park. It is a 53 acre park in Louisville, and sits between the Ohio River on River Road and Interstate 71. We had just pulled into the main parking area, when I spotted what appeared to be a second year Red-Shouldered Hawk.
At first it was perched on a lamp post, but quickly moved closer to me and perched in a nearby tree. I observed it and photographed it for several minutes when it flew in my direction, landing and missing a meal at the base of tall reed grasses in front of me. It was one of those moments, when I was barely even breathing, so as not to frighten it, and that is when it flew in my direction once again and it was such a magnificent looking bird!
Pete Gustas is a friend of mine on Facebook and has been very helpful to me in the past, when I was having difficulty with Raptor ID. He has created a special page on Facebook, whereby Raptor enthusiasts can share their images, called "Riff Raff". Since seeing this hawk at the park, I had shared 3 of the images that I had taken, and then this past Saturday shared a 4th image on his site.
This was to turn out to be something very special!
Pete contacted me and stated... "The Red-Shouldered Hawk you posted on Riff Raff is a very interesting bird. It has too many bands to be a R-S. The underside body plumage is also not R-S." He further shared that he had sent my photo to some Raptor experts and they were of the thinking that this was a possible Red-Shouldered / Red-tailed hybrid. He asked me to send him more images and that one thing they would be looking at is the underside of the wings, and if it had a patagial mark, that would confirm a Red-Shouldered / Red-tailed hybrid.
Of special note too, was Pete stated..." This is a very rare occurrence."
Jerry Liguori is the premier Raptor ID person in the country and almost all difficult Raptor ID's are passed by him from all other leading experts. He is the author of 2 Raptor ID guides "Hawks From Every Angle" and "Hawks at a Distance". Mr. Liguori and Pete happen to be very good friends! Thanks to Pete for getting my images to Jerry and he was able to make the final verdict, after careful consideration and looking over the shared images, that this hawk indeed is a rare Red-Shouldered / Red-tailed Hybrid... how awesome!!!
Pete called it an "Amazing Find ", as well as an " EXCELLENT find and documentation Mary!! " I am so thankful to Pete for paying such close attention to the entries on this site and that he questioned the species of this particular hawk. One comment made was in question form... "Surely this cannot be the first documented incident of hybridization of these two species?" Pete's answer was "This has been previously documented a couple of times that I know of."
Another mutual friend Vic Berardi , also a Raptor photographer and enthusiast said "Holy Moly!! What a cool photo!! Outstanding you got this shot Mary, thanks for sharing!! And thanks to you Pete for following up on this bird with JL. I just want to stare at this all day...;)"
Another mutual friend on Facebook Jeff Bouton said "This is wild!! What a crazy plumage… has completed its flight feather molt but is showing a light breast with streaks, and no sign of the adult barred breast. If I'd seen this Mary, I'd have been thinking hybrid or something. Even if the breast plumage can be explained away due to retained juvenile body feathering, I don't typically see such light breasted R-S Hawks even in immature plumage. This is a REAL unique bird!"
It is also a bit serendipitous, in that I had not even shared any of these images on my blog yet...guess there was good reason, once the facts became clear on this bird's ID.
Bill took me back to the park today. I traipsed all around the place, listening for a call from a hawk, Blue Jays, or Crows making any vocalization and it was as still as the fallen snow. I will try and check on the hawk as often as I am able, but the park is a good 30 to 45 minute drive away and the chances of me seeing it again...well, we never know, do we~
Special appreciation to:
Mr. Pete Gustas and Mr. Jerry Liguori~