Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Bulletin 188 - Anahuac NWR winter birds

I have made several trips to Anahuac NWR recently and found some great birds.

A first for me was to see and photograph Krider's color morph Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) Sibley lists the Krider's as a 'scarce' prairie variant. It is very pale, almost white. One was found at Anahuac and I went to see and found a second bird as well.

Here is the first one that was seen and photographed. It has a bit of brown on the cheeks. There is also a bit of reddish wash on the tail. The eye color is yellow. This is probably a sub-adult bird as adults have brown eyes and red tails.

Krider's Red-tailed Hawk - subadult
The second bird is definitely a juvenile as it has no red on its tail and a yellow eye. This one is almost pure white on its head.

Krider's Red-tailed Hawk - juvenile
Here he is from above. Notice how light the end of the wings are, and how they are sharply demarcated from the central wing. This is exactly like the illustration in Sibley of the juvenile.

Krider's Red-tailed Hawk - juvenile
Another hawk was this juvenile White-tailed Hawk  (Buteo albicaudatus). They are almost completely brown, but have a white spot on their chest. But from the back as in this photo, it is just a big brown hawk. So how do you know this species form the photo? It has very long wings that project beyond the tail.

White-tailed Hawk - juvenile
Merlins (Falco columbaris) have always been a tough bird for me to find and photograph, but I found 2 in the past week at Anahuac. This small (10") falcon has a gray to black colored back and streaked breast. This one was perched on a fence post.

The second one I found first thing in the morning on a low branch. The sunlight at dawn gave it a brown coloration.


A female American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) stayed perched in a tree long enough for photos. Usually they fly off as soon as the car stops beside them. Kestrels are our smallest falcon at 9" in length. The female is all rufous - wings, back and tail and has 2 vertical black facial stripes. She even fanned her tail for the photo.

American Kestrel - female

A pair of Crested Caracaras (Caracara cheriway) atop a bare tree completed a wonderful group of raptors.

Crested Caracara
An interesting sight was scores of migrating Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) perched on a fence.

Tree Swallows
A beautiful male Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) gave me some beautiful eye-level shots on 2 different days. These are the best ever for me of this species.

Vermilion Flycatcher - male

Vermilion Flycatcher - male

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2014 David McDonald

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