Wading Bird

One day back before Christmas, I was surprised to see a Red-tailed Hawk land on top of the retaining wall on the north side of the house. Luckily the dogs were in the house so they weren’t out to disturb him (her? knowledgeable people, please opine).

He stayed still long enough that I could get my camera.

After a couple of minutes, he plopped down into a puddle in the driveway that had been formed by melting snow.

He then spent the next 20 minutes or so happily wading back and forth in the puddle, occasionally pausing for a drink. 

He never bathed – never got  his feathers wet at all.

He finally decided he’d had enough fun and off he went. I added this last picture that shows the look he gave me when he spotted me in the window.

8 thoughts on “Wading Bird”

  1. Funny- I had the same thought. But– the WHOLE tail? Also, it looks full feathered.

    And the barred sides are a LITTLE more adult looking. Eye color, whiteness, streaks all "juvenile"…

    New things every day (;-)

  2. Steve,
    The Red-tailed Hawk in the picture looks like a subadult between 1-2 years of age. It is not fully mature yet and still has the white iris of the eye. The hawk partially molted out some of the tail feathers after its first year. Looking closely at the edges of the tail, the brown, barred—and thus, retained–immature feathers can still be seen. Contrary to popular belief, birds don’t replace 100% of their feathers during a molt. The general biological rule is: the larger the body size, the longer it takes to replace all the feathers. I’ve trapped many such subadult raptors in the wild, with a blend of both immature and mature feathers. Bird banders use distinctive feathering like this as a means to “age” birds at banding stations. Researchers in wildlife forensics use data like this too. Stacia

  3. Hence the expression among falconers after the first year "did he/she molt clean?" I have had more than one red-tailed that did not.

    Since the tail is the last to finish and most of the tail came in, I would speculate that nearly all of the rest of the feathers are adult. White scapulars don't appear as patchiness due to incomplete molt and suggest eastern red-tailed, along with the wing tips shy of the tail length. In addition, white throat and lack of rufous underparts.


  4. I hadnt looked at the enlarged photos initially but the larger pics do show some juvenile tail feathers on the outside of the tail.I still suspect it had a traumatic incident that resulted in tail feathers being pulled that regrew. I dont see any adult plumage on the body at all. Making me think first year bird, if it had just had a bad molt there would be some adult feathers on the body.

  5. Studying the photos, a couple of adult contour (body) feathers are evident: round edges with gray background and a reddish tinge. Also, the secondary and primary flight feathers are a mix of immature and mature feathers. The mature, molted feathers are a darker gray, while the retained immature feathers are brown. Look very closely at individual feathers and compare the colors, shapes and textures. Stacia


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