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Can Photos Aid in Identifying the Hawk Found
on August 9, 2013?

Background

Early in the morning on Friday, August 9, 2013, a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk was found dead near the greenhouses next to Bradfield Hall on the Cornell University campus. It was taken to the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine. Tests are now being conducted to determine the cause of death. Given that the hawk was found not far from Big Red's and Ezra's nest, there is a strong possibility that it was one of their young. Additionally, between August 9 and the time of this writing on August 15, 2013, local observers had sighted Big Red and Ezra in the area with only one juvenile, believed to be D2. 

Coincidentally, on August 9, an injured juvenile Red-tailed Hawk was also found near campus, at the intersection of Judd Falls Rd. and Route 366. This second hawk had extensive injuries to his legs and feet, and was taken to the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center in the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine. Sadly, after receiving expert care from Cornell's veterinarians for five days, he had to be euthanized because his injuries were determined to be too severe to enable recovery and quality of life. Two BOGs (local observers on the ground), Karels and BOGette, believe that this hawk was D1, based on his appearance when they saw him after injury. We have requested photos from the Wildlife Health Center to determine whether we can confirm this identification based on photos.

Meanwhile, the diagnostic center sent us photos of the hawk that had been found dead on Friday. Karels, BOGette, and christinebshoals joined staff at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to examine the photos.

Photo Identification Inconclusive

Because the hawk was found after a long rainstorm, its feathers were wet and matted, and no pattern could be discerned from photos of the breast feathers. Unfortunately, images of the tail feathers were also inconclusive. D3 was known to have an easily visible band of white at the edge of the tail feathers. A well-defined band was not visible in the photos, although several feathers do have white tips. It is possible that the white markings may have been less pronounced in the photos because of wet, disarranged, and possibly soiled feathers. We concluded that the photos did not contain additional information beyond the circumstantial evidence and observations to confirm whether the hawk was D3.

What About the Injured Hawk?

We have also requested photos of the other hawk, believed to be D1. Once we have a chance to examine the images, we will post an update to this page. 

Thanks

Many thanks to Karels, BOGette, and christinebshoals for their help and consultation, and to ferrisakel for previous photos of the Ds for comparison. Thank you to the diagnostic center for sharing the photos with our community.

For more photos of the Red-tailed Hawk family on campus, visit christinebshoals's flickr gallery: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97075568@N04/ If you'd like to share your thoughts, please add a comment to the post on this topic from August 15, 2013, found on facebook.com/birdcams and allaboutbirds.org/cornellhawks.

Posted on August 15, 2013

RTHA_TailOne_large   RTHA_TailOne_small   RTHA_TailThree_Large

Top 3 images: Photos of D3 taken
in the wild show prominent white
tips to the tail feathers, forming a
band. Photo by Ferris

 

 Photo by christinebshoals

 

 

Photo by Ferris

 

         

RTHA_TailThree_small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RTHA_TailTwo_large

The tail feathers (left and above) showed white tips in some cases, but because the feathers were wet and the angle in the photographs limited, the images were inconclusive for identification.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RTHA_FullVentralView_small

The feathers on the breast and belly were too wet and matted to discern a pattern.