Sunday, April 27, 2014

Red-shouldered Hawk near Payette

Back in January, a birder from the Payette area posted a picture of a hawk to the Facebook Idaho Birding page wondering if it might be a Red-shouldered Hawk. On this group, there are a decent number of birdwatchers who aren’t necessarily as experienced as others at identification, and it’s not unusual for someone to post that they think they’ve seen something really extraordinary, only to find out after the experts weigh in that their bird was rather ordinary instead. I kind of expected that to be the case with this post as well, until I actually saw the picture that went with it, and was surprised to see it really was a Red-shouldered Hawk!

If you look at eBird data for Idaho, Red-shouldered Hawks are quite rare here. There are a handful of other records, but they’re certainly not regular at all.

RSHA 2013

eBird bar chart for Red-shouldered Hawk in Idaho, not including 2014.

Some birders came from quite a distance to see the bird, and I found it fascinating to see how all these records had an impact on our understanding of Red-shouldered Hawk distribution in Idaho.

RSHA 2014

eBird bar chart for Red-shouldered Hawk in Idaho, including 2014.

This particular Red-shouldered was hanging out in a slough along Killebrew Drive near Payette, though there was actually another one found in Eagle the next month, so it seemed to be an extraordinary winter for these birds in southwest Idaho.

We tried to find it on the 25th of January, and missed it by just a minute or two several times. We were dealing with a fussy baby in the back, and my dad instincts were enough stronger than my bird instincts that I refrained from just letting Nora scream in the back of the car while we tried to find the bird, and opted instead to find us a nice quiet parking space for Ellen to feed Nora. We did return on the 26th though and had better luck.

On our way out of our neighborhood we saw a mixed flock of finches in a tree, including House Finches, American Goldfinches, and a Lesser Goldfinch.


Mixed finches on East Lake Forest Drive, Boise, Ada County. January 26, 2014.

On our way out we stopped at Caldwell Ponds so Ellen could feed Nora while we kept an eye out for the Golden-crowned Sparrow that was hanging out there since it was initially found during the Christmas Bird Count. We found it, but somehow these guys always manage to keep a twig or something in front of the crown so you can’t see their most distinctive field mark.


Golden-crowned Sparrow at Caldwell Ponds, Canyon County. January 26, 2014.

When we got to Payette, the Red-shouldered Hawk was in plain view on our first pass. Much easier than the day before! Sadly, it was a very overcast day, and the bird was quite distant, so we weren’t able to get a lot of great photos out of the trip, but we at least came home with a few identifiable shots.


Red-shouldered Hawk on Killebrew Rd, Payette County. January 26, 2014.

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