What is it? ...... Right, a hawk....so true you are. Good job....you are a true birder. Now what race, species?
I find myself back in Washington State for the past few weeks taking care of my aged mom, and while I haven't had much chance to do some birding, I did notice this guy the other day. Well, in fact...I have noticed a bunch of these guys. Back east, you won't find these birds but these are real common up and down the Pacific Coast. These birds migrate from Alaska, into NW Canada and down into Washington State, Colorado and even some of the Dakotas). At first, one has to take a double take, get out the Sibley or Peterson guide, flip thru the raptor section and seek to find. And find you shall.
That bird is a Red-tailed hawk...But you notice the uniform blackness about it? This is the Harlan sub-species and lumped into the Red-tailed species overall. darker...black in many cases but the majority of adult Harlan's still have the red tail as evident by the image. As near as I can recall, this is still a sub-species although DNA testing was being done even up till a few years back to see if it qualifies as Buteo Harlani or Buteo Red-Tailed. But there was and has been some issues with this hawk and how to classify it. For instance:
From 1833--1891, the Harlan was a separate species.
From 1891-1944, the Harlan was a subspecies of the Red-tailed Hawk
From 1944-1972, the Harlan was a separate species
From 1972-Present, the Harlan is a subspecies of the Red-tailed Hawk.
Poor guy...a hawk without a true home. He has no passport to truly identify who he might be as he travels under dual citizenship as he migrates up and down the western US. Harlani Species or Harlani Sub-Species? Come on man, get it right, just do a taxonomic justification and figure it once and for all. In the meantime, do some DNA tests on all of those separate grave sites to determine if Jesse James died in AZ in an unmarked grave, or lived in Washington State till he died as an old man, or died where someone says he did in a house in MO, Or ....what about Butch Cassidy? Did he really did in Bolivia? Or better yet, are they the same person for they look the same? Or, gather enough evidence on BigFoot, there has to be some 'scat' out there, someplace.....let's not rely on that Bigfoot show where BoBo reports on Discovery channel to wait till we get positive ID. Or, ...Well you get the idea, species or subspecies. It can't be that hard guys. Get your act together and find a true home for this Harlani, they deserve it.