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Tips on id'ing a raptor

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa

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wildtuinman
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Tips on id'ing a raptor

Unread postby wildtuinman » Mon May 26, 2008 6:35 am

Image

Apart from the obvious things such as distribution, coloration and size, to id this bird it would be a good start to look at 4 basic things:

1. Tarsus - Eagles have tarsi which are covered by feathers. Thus this would be on of the eagle species. This would distinguish eagles from similar looking Buzzards.

2. Cere - I've mentioned the cere more for explaining where and what it is rather than helping with an id in raptors. But it is sometimes worthwhile to notice the cere's coloration to distinguish different raptor species. In this case the yellow cere would exclude species like Martial Eagle, Crowned Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, etc.

3. Gape - This bird's gape extends to the middle of the eye. This immediately rules out birds like Steppe and Lesser Spotted eagles. Now we basically broke it down to 2 likely possibilities:

Tawny and Wahlberg's eagles.

4. Nostril - Wahlberg's have a round nostril where as Tawny's is oval shaped.

And via this route we can then conclude that this bird is indeed a Tawny eagle. In the field the eye showed a yellowish eye, indicative of a mature bird.

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Unread postby wildtuinman » Mon May 26, 2008 6:51 am

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1. The throat and breast is grey and the rest of the underparts are finely barred. (striped would be verticle markings). This thus rules out birds like the Ovambo Sparrowhawk.

2. The red cere and legs points us to Gabar Goshawk and Dark Chanting Goshawk. The Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk do not occur in Kruger.

2. Like I have explained to you last week, the lack of wing contrast tells me that this bird is a Dark Chanting Goshawk.

4. One cannot see it clearly in this pic, perhaps because the bird is sitting on an angle, but there is no visible white rump. A Gabar Goshawk shows a distinct white rump.

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Unread postby christo » Mon May 26, 2008 7:13 am

A very informative post, please add plenty more.
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Unread postby Bush Baptist » Mon May 26, 2008 7:34 am

Thanks Oom for the useful guide.

Is the tarsus the lower leg?
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wildtuinman
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Unread postby wildtuinman » Mon May 26, 2008 7:41 am

Bush Baptist wrote:Thanks Oom for the useful guide.

Is the tarsus the lower leg?


Yes, the upper leg is the tibia. :wink:

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Unread postby Mgoddard » Mon May 26, 2008 8:35 am

WTM, thanks again for all this information. :D ..very informative indeed

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Unread postby arks » Mon May 26, 2008 2:18 pm

Thanks for these really useful ID pointers WTM :clap: :dance: You can start your own series: Raptor ID for Dummies :wink: This dummie really appreciates your easy checklist!
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Unread postby wildtuinman » Mon May 26, 2008 2:26 pm

arks wrote:Raptor ID for Dummies
- By a Dummy himself. :lol: :lol:

It's a pleasure. It is sometimes something as small as this that makes a huge difference. And tips should always be distributed, so if anyone else can contribute, please do so. I will try to type up some more useful tips this evening.

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Unread postby Batmad » Mon May 26, 2008 6:33 pm

thanks for the informative post wildtuinman, now i know a little bit more about raptor identification or should i say a lot!!

well done please post more
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Unread postby wildtuinman » Tue May 27, 2008 6:47 am

Image (I should just point out that the leg and cere coloration could differ from orange to yellow to red)

Image

How to id an accipiter.

The following birds can be found in this group:
Ovambo Sparrowhawk
Shikra
Little Sparrowhawk
Black Sparrowhawk
African Goshawk
Rufous-Chested Sparrowhawk


Again as with eagles a rule of 4 is the trick to id these species:

first of all, from a front on view this genus can be distinguished from the similar and somewhat larger
sized Melierax(Gabar, Southern Pale and Dark Chanting Goshawks) genus and the Lizzard Buzzard
by the lack of two toned underparts on the throat and breast.

the Cere plays a bigger role in these species.

1. This bird has an orange/yellow cere(which also could be yellow at times in the case of Ovambo Sparrowhawk). This excludes African Goshawk and adult Black Sparrowhawk.

2. The eye. Dark brown with a hint of red. This will exclude just about every other bird of this genus.
Out goes the Little Sparrowhawk(yellow ring around eye), the Shikra(bright red eye, but shade could make it seem dark),
Rufous-Chested Sparrowhawk(yellow eye), Black Sparrowhawk(apart from the distinct black coloring in the adult,
the eye is also red, but shade could make it seem dark) and African Goshawk(Yellow eye).

(At this point you can actually id it as the Ovambo Sparrowhawk.)

3. The throat and breast pattern and color. This bird is finely barred from throat to tail.
This will exclude Black Sparrowhawk, Rufous-Chested Sparrowhawk, Little Sparrowhawk and Shikra
(all 4 have a white throat)

4. The tail. From the back this bird's tail has a unique pattern. It has a barred upper tail with 3 white distinctive
central spots on each dark bar. The Little Sparrowhawk has 2 white tail spots on the upper tail.
The Shikra has an all grey plain upper tail.

On conclusion one can see that this bird is an Ovambo Sparrowhawk.

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Unread postby wildtuinman » Tue May 27, 2008 7:40 am

Another good tip is to when you see a raptor, to gather as much information as you can as fast as possible. We all know how quickly they love to disappear into the sunset when you lift your bins. :twisted:

By doing the 4 point check, as so to speak, you will have enough information to pin that raptor down in your bird guide.

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Unread postby restio » Thu May 29, 2008 9:48 am

Great stuff, WTM! :clap: :D

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Unread postby JenB » Tue Jul 08, 2008 1:42 pm

Wtm! :clap:
Thanx! :D
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