Answers to the Crossley Raptor mystery plate

There were a total of 65 entries to the mystery raptor plate from the Crossley ID Guide: Raptors, but only two people got all the answers correct. The names were thrown into a digital hat and the winner is David Rankin! David will be receiving the prize package from Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, one of my favorite places and an institution that was instrumental in my beginnings as a hawk fanatic! Check out the mystery plate again and scroll down to see the correct identification and the percentage of responses that were correct. The easiest bird was the Osprey while very few correctly identified the Swainson’s Hawk (raptor 8). Thanks to everyone for participating and a big thank you to Hawk Mountain, Crossley ID Guides, and Princeton University Press for providing the mystery plate and prize package.

Mystery Buteo - hovering (numbered)


1. Female American Kestrel. Plumage entails rufous upperwing coverts, black primaries, rufous color to mottling on underwing coverts and streaks on chest. Note long, slim, pointed wings. (54% correct)

2. Juv./1st-year light Red-tailed Hawk. Buffy underneath with dark patagials and bellyband, brown head, and completely banded tail that lacks reddish color. Note that dark trailing edge to the wings is less prominent than on adults. (85% correct)

3. Male American Kestrel. Note long, pointed wings, and short body. Pale underbody with contrasting darker, silvery underwings identify this as a male. (48% correct)

4. 3rd-year White-tailed Hawk. Note buteo-shaped, broad wings and short tail. The white tail with darker flight feathers help identify this as White-tailed Hawk, but subadult underwing plumage denotes 3rd-year. (22% correct)

5. Light Red-tailed Hawk. Buffy underneath with dark patagials and bellyband, but difficult to age at this distance or pose. (74% correct)

6. Dark adult Rough-legged Hawk. Note the uniformly dark underbody with paler flight feathers that show a dark trailing edge, and pale underside to the tail with a well-defined dark tip. The broad, dark tail tip and lack of multiple tail bands make this a likely female. (48% correct)

7. Male American Kestrel. Note 2 facial sideburns, blue upperwing coverts, and orange tail with black tip. No other North American raptor shows this coloration. (86% correct)

8. Dark adult Swainson’s Hawk. Note the uniformly dark rufous-brown underbody with darker flight feathers, and tapered wingtips. (11% correct)

9. Osprey. Ospreys are large, distinct birds. Note pure white underside with darker flight feathers and black wrists, and white head with black eyeline and nape. An adult based on pure white chest, and lack of dark streaking on crown. (95% correct)

10. White-tailed Kite. White underside with grayish flight feathers and black wrists; head and tail are pure white. Note long, slim, pointed wings. (83% correct)

11. Juv./1st-year male American Kestrel. Note pale underbody with black spots on belly and chest, 2 sideburns on face, and reddish tail. Checkered flight feathers appear silvery on males. Some new rufous chest feathers denote 1st-year in fall; by winter the chest is fully rufous and lacks spots. (91% correct)

These folks correctly identified all 11 birds in the plate.

  1. David Rankin
  2. Don Bryant

Check out some of the other posts going on for the release of the Crossley ID Guide: Raptors.

Princeton University Press blog – A feature on the Northern Goshawk and a chance to win a copy of The Crossley ID Guide

Charm of Finches – A feature on raptors found in Southern Texas

Minnesota Bird Nerd – A feature on Hawk Ridge and raptor counting