[CT Birds] Guilford: Broad-Winged Hawk

Grimm, Chris chris.grimm at globepequot.com
Wed Dec 14 17:32:20 EST 2011

Since a few have mentioned Swainson's, I'll just post to everyone,
instead of continuing to reply individually...

But first, we're at an odd little location - an office building just off
of Exit 59 (Goose Lane).  Behind our building is a somewhat rectangular
pond (Innovation Pond) which is roughly 100 yards by 200 yards.  Two
sides are bordered with about 20 feet of mowed grass - our building and
parking lot along part of one long side, with the short mowed side going
up to a road.  The other two sides are bordered immediately by woods.
This is a great spot for birding - and unusual citings are common (my
favorite having been a Golden Eagle a couple of years ago, but I

The hawk was slowly (gingerly) walking from the direction of the pond
(when spotted) toward the building - geese do this all of the time - but
odd behavior to see in a hawk (but what I saw was no more than 15 feet
of walking).  And I would say it was a bit disoriented.  Of course, I
might just be projecting that state upon the bird because the behavior
was odd for a hawk.  (We get a lot of hawks here - mostly Red Tails, but
Osprey, Harriers, etc. - but they tend to perch in the trees along the
other side of the pond, if they aren't circling.)  I also almost
immediately wondered if it had hit the windows before ending up on the
ground.  Anyway, this was directly in front of my window (I am on the
second of two floors).  

The hawk then flew maybe 100 yards across the corner of the pond and
landed in the grass between the pond and the small road.  At this point
I wondered if it was hurt and unable to do better - but I could not
actually see where it had landed.  But after maybe 30 seconds it took
off, flying south to north across the length of the pond and, again,
directly across my line of vision - maybe 50 feet away - as it ascended
(giving me a great look at the bottom, to go along with the great look
at the top, when it was on the grass under my window).

The bird was initially spotted by a colleague who pointed it out to me
(and who made the preliminary identification).  I wasn't as immediately
confident - but after the solid view from above, the solid view from the
side and below, and a little time to do some research, I concurred.  (My
colleague was actually even more completely confident after seeing the
pictures in the link that James sent, of a Broad-winged Hawk in
Massachusetts in December, 2009.)

While I am not the most capable birder in the area (nor even in my
household), here was my thinking.  (Beyond, obviously, looking closely
at the bird, looking at pictures of other Broad-winged Hawks, and
recognizing that they are the same.)...

The pattern and size did it for me - this was a comparatively small
hawk.  By "pattern" I especially mean the distinct striping on the tail
and the dominant white underside of the wings that stood out - to me
those were the 'primary' identifying characteristics.  And as I
mentioned, it was small, as far as hawks go.  (Given my rudimentary way
of figuring these things out, my first thought when the bird was pointed
out in front of my window was "that hawk is small, like a sharpie, but
it's not (a sharpie)" - it wasn't as small, but certainly closer to a
sharpie than a red tail, in size.)

Anyway, I did look at more pix of Swainson's after receiving that
suggestion for the first time.  I'll put it this way - for the sake of
argument, if I was to say I was only 99% sure it was a Broad-wing, I
would say WITH 100% CONFIDENCE that it's NOT a Swainson's, which
wouldn't have had enough white on the under-wing and which would have
been larger (probably SUBSTANTIALLY larger) than this bird.  Assuming
there is a remote chance that it was not a Broad-winged, and it
absolutely wasn't a Swainson's, I would welcome other thoughts.  (I have
now also looked at scores of Juvy Red Shoulder pix on the Internet -
except for the Stoke's picture, they don't have wings as completely
white, and even theirs is not as white as this one.)

I don't know what the latest citing of Broad-winged in Connecticut is.
But when trying to identify visually, that really wasn't part of the
equation - size, tail markings, and wing markings were - then I went to
my guide and to the Internet.  Clearly they haven't OFTEN been seen this
late in New England - but just as clearly they HAVE been seen this late
in New England.  

-----Original Message-----
From: Grimm, Chris 
Sent: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 10:49 AM
To: CT Birding List
Subject: Guilford: Broad-Winged Hawk

12/14, 10:30am at Innovation Pond off of Goose Lane. 

Seems late in season, but... it was on the ground and very close.
Behavior seemed odd, as it was on the ground and walking toward the
building (I'd wondered if it had hit the building or was otherwise
injured), but then it flew to the other side of the lake, eventually
taking off for good, seeming fine.

Also two pair of Hooded Mergansers on the pond (in addition to the usual
Canada Geese and gulls.

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