Common Black-Hawk in Willacy County

or is it?

4 May 2013, Common Black-Hawk
Santa Monica wetlands, Willacy County, TX N26.42699, W97.60979

Observed from 7:30-7:38 AM.  First impression through 10X binoculars was of a black-hawk.
Perched, the buteo-shaped hawk was completely feathered in pitch black.  Only from the
expanded photos shown below was I able to see the white tail tip.  When it took flight, I
was able to see the white tail band that also shows in the photos.  The yellow cere was
clearly visible through binoculars and on the photos. Although the gray tip of the bill could
not be seen through binoculars, it can be seen from expanding some of the photos.

I considered Common Black-Hawk as an extremely unlikely find in Willacy County, so I
also considered Zone-tailed Hawk as a possibility.  It would seem that the white tail tip,
the singular wide white tail band, and the obvious yellow cere would be inconsistent with
Zone-tailed Hawk.

According to Lockwood & Freeman (2004) Handbook of Texas Birds, Common
Black-Hawks have been very rare visitors to the Lower Rio Grande Valley and their
range map does not extend to Willacy County.

Upon posting this sighting to Texbirds and TX-Ornithology, several expert birders
pointed out that this is actually another species and I apparently was deceived by
poor lighting.

Photos were taken with a 400mm lens and the first photo shown below is original size.


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