White-tailed Hawk
Hadley, MA
April 24, '06
All Photos Shawn Carey 2007

Comments from Wayne Petersen on this flight shot by Shawn Carey, excerpted from an email to Scott Surner:

As you and others have correctly noted, this is a species that historically has shown almost no evidence of regular vagrancy, with the only states outside Texas having any historical claim to its occurrence at all being Louisiana, New Mexico, and Arizona. In other words, the record on this species is that it tends to be remarkably sedentary, other than occasional short distance wandering by juveniles and sub-adults.

With this in mind, I would encourage you to have a close look at the superb flight shot that I am forwarding to you of the White-tailed Hawk obtained yesterday by Shawn Carey. I urge you to particularly note the broken tips on several of the bird's primaries, along with the suggestion of considerable wear on the tips of some of the secondaries, and possibly on the tail tips as well. These features are often indicative of birds that have either been held in captivity in a cage, or else transported in a small carrying container where there wing tips get broken or abraded in an atypical fashion. I think it is highly unusual that a Buteo at this season would show such unusual feather wear, unless of course it had been held in captivity.

I have sent out several other requests for input on the incidence of White-tailed Hawks in captivity, and will share these as they come back. Much as I would love to add this species to the state list, I must admit that this picture gives me serious pause. Also, the fact that the bird continues to return to the same general area with such frequency seems a little unusual for a fully wild raptor. What do you think?

Eastern Massachusetts Hawk Watch, 2007
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updated 04/26/2006