More than a Hawk?
May 11, 2010 5:10 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone I.D. this bird?

We live in Chicago and this rather large predatory bird is camping on one of our neighbors trees. It looks like it's molting I can't be sure.

In any case it is huge for our area, a hawk?

Pics 1, 2, 3, 4.
posted by Max Power to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Boy, that thick, sharply hooked beak in picture 4 sure makes it look like a juvenile bald eagle. They're pretty huge.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:28 PM on May 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

For comparison.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:29 PM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm curious just how big this thing is. It's a little difficult for me to get a sense of scale from the pictures. Can you estimate?

I'll admit that knowing how big this guy is wouldn't bring me, personally, any closer to identifying this, but it might help the more experienced bird people here.
posted by The Potate at 5:32 PM on May 11, 2010

redtailed hawk?

the beak is right for a redtailed hawk as well... or, could be a bald eagle, they don't get the distinctive white head until the fourth or fifth year...
posted by HuronBob at 5:36 PM on May 11, 2010

It could be a golden eagle or what mr. roboto said.
posted by thirteenkiller at 5:43 PM on May 11, 2010

It's about 2 feet or so head to tail, we didn't want to disturb it, being so unusual in these parts, it is BIG.
posted by Max Power at 5:44 PM on May 11, 2010

I may be an immature Bald eagle. Goldens are very large.
posted by jimfl at 6:07 PM on May 11, 2010

The bill looks heavy to me for a redtail, and it looks awfully bulky for a rtha, but IDing perched raptors is tough.

If it is a redtail, does it actually have a red tail? The front of it is dark, and in the last photo - taken from the back - I can't see the tail. Even dark morph redtails have red tails, but a (possible) subspecies called Harlan's hawk is dark on the front like that, and has a tail with light bands on it that may or may not show much red.
posted by rtha at 6:09 PM on May 11, 2010

I vote juvenile bald eagle, too. It looks like bald eagles are not unusual in Illinois. They're brown and shaggy just like that fella.
posted by ErikaB at 6:19 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

The more I look at it, the more I think you might have a juvenile bald eagle. Look at the head and bill proportions here (bald) vs here (redtail). I'm leaning towards bald over golden because you're in Chicago, which is near a lake, and balds like water. Not that goldens don't, but balds like it more.
posted by rtha at 6:22 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I thank you all for the responses. He/she has flown off during my dinner. I live in a highly urban area, and aside from the occasional owls and falcons, this guy was really a sight. Crows were trying to get him/her to leave for hours.

I hope s/he makes it someplace a little less hectic.

(I'd love to think it was a bald eagle too, we are so close to both the Chicago river and Lake Michigan.)
posted by Max Power at 7:02 PM on May 11, 2010

I'm not sure crows bother all raptors, but out here on the island they seem to exclusively bother bald eagles and leave hawks alone.

(Which I guess might make some sort of sense, as bald eagles are, from what I understand, carrion eaters by preference whereas hawks are active hunters and might try to teach a crow a lesson or two.)
posted by maxwelton at 9:19 PM on May 11, 2010

Oh, balds will definitely eat birds, if they can catch them (they like waterfowl - swans are a little to large, but they will go after geese); Audubon magazine had a great photo a month or so back of a bald eagle, talons out, about to snatch a starling out of the air. Bald eagles are mostly fish-eaters - they're in the genus of sea eagles (Haliaeetus), rather than being "true" eagles (Aquila), like the golden. They do like their carrion, balds. Or stealing fish from ospreys.

FWIW and because I am nerdy like this, hawks include falcons (like peregrines) and eagles (like balds) as well as redtails and Cooper's hawks etc. All are raptors, as well. They're both umbrella terms, and referring to an eagle or peregrine as a hawk is perfectly accurate.
posted by rtha at 10:18 PM on May 11, 2010

Thanks for that clarification, rtha. When I mentioned "hawks" is was carelessly referring to red-tailed hawks, which we have a cajillion of, they probably outnumber the still-fairly-common bald eagles five to one. And every perched or flying bald has at least one if not three crows (crows? ravens? rooks? we have at least two species of "crows" here, one of which is considerably larger than the other) hectoring or actively trying to steal its catch, whereas the red-tails never seem to attract an audience.
posted by maxwelton at 2:43 AM on May 12, 2010

Cool, maxwelton. If you're in the US, we've got crows and ravens. The ravens are quite a bit larger and have wedge-shaped tails and larger bills. There are a couple of different subspecies of crow, depending on where you are, but they're pretty hard to tell apart. Don't know why they'd only harass the balds; the crows and ravens here in SF (we do lack bald eagles, true) seem to take a special pleasure in "schooling" juvenile 'tails - the adults may be left alone, but their kids will get picked on.
posted by rtha at 8:14 AM on May 12, 2010

Could be a dark phase red tailed hawk.
posted by klanawa at 10:14 PM on May 12, 2010

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