Buteos in Nebraska

Drew WeberBird Sightings, Birding, Photography1 Comment

For spring break, I headed to central Nebraska with several friends to attend a conference hosted by three ornithological societies. We weren’t entirely thrilled to be trading cold Pennsylvania weather for equally cold and snowy Nebraska weather but at least the waterfowl and crane migration was supposed to be a spectacle worth seeing. I didn’t get any photos since I spent most of my time looking at birds and didn’t feel like digiscoping but Nate and Tim both got lots of shots.

Raptors were everywhere when we were driving. One thing that was really neat was the variation in the Red-tailed Hawks. From birds with no breast band to intermediate morph Western birds to dark morth Harlan’s, the variation was borderline overwhelming to an easterner used to our Eastern Red-tailed Hawks that all look so similar.

light Western Red-tailed Hawk- Nate Fronk

dark Western Red-tailed Hawk- Nate Fronk

dark Western Red-tailed Hawk- Nate Fronk

One of my favorite sightings was the Ferruginous Hawks that we saw. These are the big brutes of the Buteo genus, with a wingspan half a foot longer than Red-tailed Hawks. I love the rufous feathers contrasting with the pale white feathers on the underside and the rufous leg feathers. One of the Ferruginous Hawks we saw was harassing a prairie dog town and eventually emerged with lunch.

adult Ferruginous Hawk- Nate Fronk

adult Ferruginous Hawk- Nate Fronk

We also saw a few Rough-legged Hawks wich are intermediate in size between Red-tailed Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks.

Rough-legged Hawk- Nate Fronk

Thanks to Nate and Tim for the fantastic photos they allowed me to use. You can find more from Tim on his blog, Words about Birds.