There are more Buteos in heaven and earth then are dreamt of in our philosophy. Or at least here on earth, which is graced with some 29 species. These are, generally, medium-to-large hawks with broad wings and short tails who typically soar overhead. The Red-tailed Hawk (B. jamaicensis) is the most common in North America. This species is found in every habitat, comes in quite a few varieties, and is the classic road-side hawk, perched or soaring above our highways and byways. There are a fair number who make New York City itself home; one 5th Avenue (Manhattan) resident in particular is a celebrity and, for some, a virtual fetish.One assumes, then, upon seeing a bulky hawkish silhouette in a tree that it will resolve itself as the old faithful Red-tailed. Which is precisely why one should always look! At Croton Point, as we were walking towards the bridge over the train yard, I saw this bird behind a row of trees, perched with hawk-eye scanning a closely-cropped hill. How exciting to discover that this shape in the tree wasn’t just another a RTH — no offense of course to the RTHs. This is a Red-shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus, a rather rarer bird.
Look at those long legs! These RSHs runs smaller than the average Red-tailed and have shorter wings and longer tails. The red shoulder may be hard to see. I didn’t see it from my several limited angles through the branches. In California, the adult birds are bright orange on the breast, here on the East Coast less so, but I’d still call this a “ginger.” California is where I saw my first. Elsewhere, more locally: here’s one eating a snake in Great Swamp; and this one was practically in the ‘hood at Marine Park. Note that in the first picture of this sequence, the wind is splaying the neck and/or chin feathers to show the lighter color beneath.