After a hike with my son yesterday, while we were driving home, I saw what looked like a very white hawk fly over the road and perch nearby. I happened to have my 7D with a 100-400mm lens on it on the passenger seat of the car (happy accident!) so I stopped and grabbed the camera with the intention of just getting a closer look at the bird to figure out what it was.
Pretty much as soon as I got focused on the bird another bird came in, which I soon realized was a Red-Shouldered Hawk, and they began to mate. It was all over a few seconds later, and I just held the shutter button down and prayed I’d get something despite the sub-optimal conditions.
It turns out my camera settings were all wrong (go figure) since I had been photographing wildflowers earlier in different light and hadn’t really had even a second to think about metering, but after the mating was finished the two birds sat next to each other for about 10 seconds and I managed a few shots that are salvageable at least for an ID. Looks like the female is partially leucistic – a reduced pigmentation condition similar to albinism. The side-by-side shot shows very light coloration on the wings and shoulders and significantly lighter tail feathers than the male, showing normal adult plumage for an eastern Red-shouldered Hawk.
While I am definitely going to try to re-find this bird I may never get another opportunity to see it again – or any like it (indeed I could only find one other photo online of a Red-Shouldered Hawk with this condition)…very cool! Its just too bad I wasn’t able to capture these birds in good light (and not to mention without being photographed through car window glass!!!)
Here are a few other views – far from the best photos I’ve ever made technically speaking, but they give a few views of the underside and the back/shoulders/tail of the bird. Nature is very interesting indeed!
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