Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2004-30

Common name:

Common Black Hawk

Scientific name: Buteogallus anthracinus
Date: 16 Sep 2004
Time: ~ 10:00 AM
Length of time observed: ~ 20 minutes
Number: 1
Age: adult with some juvenile characteristics
Sex: ?
Location: Along the Provo River near Utah Lake State Park
County: Utah
Elevation: ~ 4600 feet
Distance to bird: 15 to 100 feet
Optical equipment: 8 x 10 binoculars, 20-60 x Kowa spotting scope
Weather: clear
Light Conditions: good
Detailed description of bird: General:  The perched bird was hawk-shaped with a completely black plumage except for a white tipped tail, some white higher up on the tail on the front and back, and little crescents of white on the undertail coverts.

Tail: I saw a broad white band across the tail as it flew in front of my car.  The band was wider than in the pictures I've seen of Zone-tailed Hawks and it was white from the top as well as from the bottom .There were also some white markings higher up on the tail which I didn't get a good look at.  The tail seemed to extend further beyond the back edge of the wings then the pictures in the books or than I would expect from my limited experience.  The tail feathers were tipped with white.

Head: There was a gray patch between the eyes and the bill and a small yellow cere. The tip of the beak was gray to about half way down.

Wings: When the bird flew by my car I could see a significant amount of white under the wings, (which may have been a reflection of the morning sun).  On the perched bird the wings were black and the tips on the wings came to within about a couple of inches of the tip of the tail.

Legs and feet:  The legs and feet were light yellow. The legs looked quite long relative to the length of the toes.

(See photos)

Song or call & method of delivery: none heard
Behavior: The first time I saw the bird it flew in front of the windshield of my car being chased by an American Kestrel.  I relocated the bird perched on a limb of a willow tree that extended over the Provo River.  It allowed me to get within about 20 feet before it hopped to another limb.
Habitat: Large willow trees along the Provo River.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Dark morph Broad-winged Hawk: I think the bird is too dark even for a very  dark morph of a BW Hawk.  The tarsus is too long (but other than that the bird I saw looks quite a bit like the drawing in the Sibley's guide.

Zone-tailed Hawk: Although I saw some white higher up in the tail like a ZT Hawk, the large band near the middle of the tail was too broad and was white above and below like a CB Hawk.  The primaries didn't extend near the tip of the tail like in a ZT Hawk. The length of the tarsus looked much too longer compared to the length of the middle digit  of the foot to be a ZT Hawk.  The habitat and behavior seems better for a black hawk although some references said that Zone-tailed Hawks can be found in trees along a river.

Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I've seen Common Black Hawk a couple of times at Lytle Ranch during breeding season.  I have never seen a Zone-tailed Hawk.
References consulted: The Sibley Guide to Birds, Kaufman's Birds of North America, Peterson's Hawk Guide, The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds, and a few others.
Description from: Memory and analysis of photo
Observer: Milton Moody
Observer's address: 2795 Indian Hills Drive, Provo, UT  84604
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: none
Date prepared: 12 Oct 2004
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: