Is this raptor just a really gruff osprey?
September 21, 2010 11:30 AM   Subscribe

What is this raptor I hear every morning? I'm in Plymouth, MA near a large lake. It's not an osprey or bald eagle (I listened to all the raptors at All About Birds), and unfortunately I have only seen it once (and not very well) so ID'ing it by sound is my only option. The problem is that it sounds like a Harris's Hawk, which only lives in the Southwest.

This raptor has a loud, raspy call that it repeats over and over. It's not squeaky enough to be an Osprey, not the typical "movie hawk" sound of the Red-tailed Hawk, and not "chittering" enough to be a Bald Eagle. All three of those birds are present, if not common, in my immediate area. I have read these other coastal Massachusetts raptor questions and also listened to Cooper's Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and Peregrine Falcons (mentioned in answers to those questions.) It sounds exactly like a Harris's Hawk, which is a southwestern bird.

The one time I saw this bird, it flew quickly over my head, very low, and crashed into something in a tree (another bird? a squirrel?) and then (both?) tumbled to the ground. I couldn't go check it out because it was in my neighbor's yard. Any ideas? Do any of the local birds of prey sound like a Harris's Hawk?
posted by nekton to Pets & Animals (5 answers total)
Best answer: Could be a redshoulder - they're awfully chatty, and can have a variety of calls.

It could, though, be a Harris's hawk - they're used in falconry, and the bird you hear may be an escapee. If you can get a good look and/or a recording of its call, let us know!
posted by rtha at 11:39 AM on September 21, 2010

Could have been a Northern Harrier, a raptor common in New England with a call similar to a Harris Hawk.
posted by birdwatcher at 6:45 PM on September 21, 2010

Best answer: I'm going to second a Red-shouldered Hawk. They are very vocal and repetitive - not as 'baby chick' sounding as a Bald Eagle; not as 'cowboy movie' as a Red-tailed. They don't really have any really strong field marks (like Red-tails (hi RTHA!)) but look for weirdly long legs when they're perched.
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:46 PM on September 21, 2010

Response by poster: Yes! I bet it's a Red-shouldered Hawk. (Somehow I missed that one when I was listening to the sounds the first time.) The description makes sense too - where we live is essentially all forest interspersed with large lakes and ponds.
posted by nekton at 7:47 AM on September 22, 2010

Excellent! They like to hunt in forests/brushy areas - it's what they're built for. If you get a pair nesting near you...well, just know that they are very noisy, and once the chicks fledge, they're even noisier, because they hang around the nest for a while, begging for food. (Hi, hydrobatidae!)
posted by rtha at 9:29 AM on September 22, 2010

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