[CT Birds] dark Buteo I-691

greg hanisek ctgregh at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 22 15:45:13 EST 2010

There have been a few reports recently of a dark Buteo along Interstate 691 in the vicinity of the Cheshire-Meriden line, not a great place to stop and get good looks. I was passing through there this afternoon and happened upon the bird perched along the eastbound lanes. It's an adult dark Red-tailed Hawk, which gave me excellent views both perched and in flight. I was able to pull over on the wide, flat paved shoulder (not necessarily recommended) and observe the bird through binoculars at pretty close range. It's a stunning creature with a strong rufous wash across its breast. It fits what former Connecticut resident and N.A. raptor expert Brian Wheeler terms a "dark intermediate (dark rufous) morph" in his beautifully photo-illustrated "Raptors of Eastern North America." Don't be misled by the book's title. This is in no way a stock-issue bird of the East. It's a "Western" Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis calurus), usually found no farther east
 than the states just east of the Mississippi R. In 50+ years of birding (I started really young :) ) I've only seen 2 in the East - one in eastern Pennsylvania and this one. I missed the dark Red-tail seen by a number of observers last winter along I-91 in the Wallingford area, but given the form's rarity here I suspect this is the same bird.
Greg Hanisek

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