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A thought on raptors

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 

Can I say something straight up? Raptors such as Peregrine, Merlin, Red-tailed Hawk, and Red-shouldered Hawk are polytypic (having several races), and there is overlap in plumage between the races of each species. There is a continuum of plumages from light to dark of birds that show polymorphism (several color forms). It is simply impossible to tell the race or morph of every raptor…or bird for that matter. It’s O.K. to have unknowns. Are these first two birds (Red-tailed Hawk and Ferruginous Hawk) rufous morphs....and what is a rufous morph compared to a rufous-toned light morph or compared to a dark morph? What about the race of the juvenile Peregrine on the right? Does any of it matter? (click on photo to enlarge)

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Blogger Tim Avery said...


you certainly can say something! And does it really matter? I think you are the person to answer that question. I think it matters to a certain degree. It is definitely interesting--but really for me I don't pay much attention to it unless I see an extreme of these plumages, or an extremely beautiful individual.

I have to say that most Merlin I see are usually in between-ers, and rarely spot on for one of the three major subs--and I do usually note this when I see one as that species in particular is interesting to me.

Speaking of Merlin, I took this picture the day I met you on Bountiful Peak some years back:

Merlin over a decoy

and this one--a better shot but not nearly as interesting as the one over the decoy:

Merlin in flight

January 25, 2011 at 12:34 PM  
Anonymous Jerry Liguori said...

Ya know, I've never seen a Black Merlin in Utah...that's my nemesis. I've never even seen a photo of one. If they occur is not an issue, I just haven't ran into one.

January 26, 2011 at 9:26 AM  
Anonymous M. said...

It's only been in the last year or so that I've really tried to look closely at Merlins here in the SL valley and in various travels. Over that time I've seen maybe 80-100, and of those, only a couple were so dark that I thought they might actually be Black Merlins. Who knows, maybe neither were, or maybe a higher percentage of the total was and I had no clue.

February 2, 2011 at 11:56 AM  

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