Besides the Black Hawks, There Were Other Raptors

By Dan Weisz

The Santa Cruz River is a very active ‘highway’ for raptor migration in the spring.   During the Hawk Watch in Tubac, many other birds are in the air besides the Common Black Hawks.  One of the nice birds I shot was this Zone-tailed Hawk, a blackish raptor of the canyons and arid foothills of the southwestern US.  Zone-tailed Hawks are known for their similarity to Turkey Vultures in size, shape, two-toned wings and behavior.  They fly with their wings slightly raised and at times show the ’tippy’ flight that Turkey Vultures do.  

Zone-tailed Hawks also look similar to Common Black Hawks. If you look at the photo above and compare it to the Black Hawk photo below, you can see the similarities.  They are both dark birds with a broad white band on their tails.  Common Black Hawks have much broader wings and shorter tails.  (The photo below was in my previous post.)

During Hawk Watch, one could often see numbers of birds in the air at the same time using the same thermals and air currents.  In the shot below, three Common Black Hawks are linked up on the same elevator going up.  This is not a composite photo.  It was shot just as the birds all aligned in their flight paths.

Many Turkey Vultures return north at this time of year.  You may be able to see how this bird looks somewhat like the Zone-tailed Hawk in the photo above.

Many of the Turkey Vultures also rode the same air currents as other birds.

An adult Rufous Morph Red-tailed Hawk joined the processions.

There were so many birds that were just distant dots to me.  The expert Hawk Watchers and people with better vision were calling out birds left and right.  This Peregrine Falcon circled over for quite a while at a distance.  The dark head and pointed wings helped to identify this raptor.

In Tubac there were many Common Ravens.  I saw a number of them but was not able to take any photos of them there, but I saw the Common Ravens in the picture below elsewhere within the past two weeks.  It is springtime so pairs of Common Ravens are now ‘common’ to see in the Tucson area.  It is thought that Common Ravens mate for life.  This was a happy pair I saw near the Tanque Verde River.

One Raven flew off and the other followed shortly.

There were Red-tailed Hawks flying over the Tubac Hawk Watch.  The Red-tailed Hawk below was seen slowly kiting over the Mauveen Behan Desert Sanctuary near the county’s Arthur Pack Park on the northwest side of town.  It is a typical Red-tail with the dark leading edge of its wings (the patagial marks) and the belly band.  Its wings were bent at that angle to help it glide very slowly into the wind.

Springtime is always a good time of the year to look straight up into the sky!  You never know what you may see.

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