Is this a Red-Shouldered Hawk? The Answer: No.

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edit:  This is a Northern Harrier, either a female, or a juvenile, as explained by the kind people below!    I was mistaken in thinking it was a Red-Shouldered Hawk.

I took lots of bird photos today at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.   I captured this hawk flying above the estuary.  I think it looks like a Red-Shouldered hawk, but I’m not sure. Red-Shouldered Hawks are rare in Washington State.  It looks like their range is mostly in Oregon and southward.  I am new to identifying raptors, so would love any expert opinions!

8 thoughts on “Is this a Red-Shouldered Hawk? The Answer: No.

  1. Blair Bernson

    Your post got my attention. Nice picture – but it is a female Northern Harrier. Dead giveaway is the wing position and the white rump patch.

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  2. doug martin

    Its a Northern Harrier… The white rump patch, wings held in a “V” and checkered pattern on underside of wings are diagnostic. A Red-shouldered hawk would fly flat and straight with quick wing beats and would have broader more rounded wings. It would have a checkered (black and white) pattern on the top side of its wings and would have contrasting black and white barring in the tail. Nice photo!
    My 2c
    Doug

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  3. Dave

    That is a Northern Harrier – probably a juvenile. Note the white rump, wings raised well-above horizontal, and in this picture you can even see the owl-like face. The other big clue is the way in which the Harrier hunts, gliding low over open fields and marshes. Northern Harriers are commonly seen at Nisqually. It’s a good place to observe them.

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  4. Rebekah G.

    I’m glad you got such a good picture, because unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that the raptor in your photo is of a female Northern Harrier. Harriers have distinctive cinnamon wingbars, a bright white rump patch, and a face like an owl’s. I’m not very familiar with Red-shouldered Hawks, but according to Sibley, they all have a pale and “translucent crescent across outer primaries”, which your bird lacks. Flying low over a field is also typical behavior for a Northern Harrier. What makes it a female is the plain streaking on the front (a juvenile would be orange, and a male would be deathly pale).

    Good try, though! Keep at it! Raptor ID can be tough sometimes!

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  5. Linnea Post author

    Thanks for all of the comments and explanations! I’ve updated my species list. I am now even more excited to try to get more raptor photos.

    Reply

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