Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2004-

Common name:

Zone-tailed Hawk

Scientific name: Buteo albonotatus
Date: August 21, 2004
Time: 10:00 AM
Length of time observed: 30 minutes
Number: one
Age: adult
Sex: ?
Location: Provo, near Ut. Lake State Park; south of Provo River in alfalfa field
County: Utah
Latilong: 6
Elevation: 4600 ft.
Distance to bird: The first 25 minutes between 100 and 120 yards; last five minutes about 25 yards
Optical equipment: Bausch and Lomb Discoverer Spotting Scope at between 20-30 x, and binoculars (8x40)
Weather: Partly cloudy
Light Conditions: good, periods of sun and clouds
Detailed description of bird: From a distance the body and head of this hawk appeared all black, and at first I thought it was a Black Hawk.  However, when it flew short distances the tail pattern soon eliminated the Black Hawk.  The terminal part of the tail was about a quarter inch of white.  Next there was a black band about two inches in width.  Then above that there was a white band about the same width.  The rest of the tail up to the body was black.  The legs were light colored, but not yellow.  The same with the bill, which was a bit more pale in color.  When I was able to drive closer for a better look, the wing secondaries were more brownish in color with black horizontal markings.  The primaries were all black.  When the bird flew there was a bit of scattered white speckling in the under wings, barely distinguishable from a distance. 
Song or call & method of delivery: None
Behavior: At first this hawk was sitting on a fence post overlooking an alfalfa field which had recently been cut and baled.  The bales were large, not the regular size bales of hay.  The hawk flew to a bale, would stay on it actively searching the ground below it, and then pounce on some prey item (couldn't tell from the distance what it was going after).  It did this 3-4 times while I was watching.  It actually sort of hopped or ran after something in the field, but it apparently got away.  Then this hawk flew to a post at the south end of the field where it perched.  I drove around to a gate and headed south toward the Provo Airport on a road that paralleled the field, getting to within 25 yards of the bird while it was perched on the post.  At this distance I was able to study it for about five minutes before another vehicle came up the road and scared it off the post.  It then flew into the large black willows bordering the Provo River on the south.  As it flew I was able to see the bird and make comparisons with the Black Hawk which I will describe below.
Habitat: Agricultural
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Black Hawk is more stocky-bodied and has broader wings than what this hawk had.  The two main characters I went with, however, were the leg coloration and the tail banding.  The Black Hawk has a black band and a white band.  It also has bright yellow legs.  I have already described the leg coloration and the tail banding above which was definitely not like the Black Hawk.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Quite a bit of experience with the Black Hawk in southern Utah.  Only once with the Zone-tailed in southern Ut. and a few times in Arizona.  Every time before I had seen the bird while it flew above me.  This is the first time I have seen it up close and personal.
References consulted: Kaufman's Birds of North America at the site, and later Sibley's Guide to Birds
Description from: Notes taken at the time, and later by memory
Observer: Merrill Webb
Observer's address: 1063 East 400 North,  Orem, Utah   84097
Observer's e-mail address:  
Other observers who independently identified this bird: none
Date prepared: August 25, 2004
Additional material:  
Additional comments: