Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2006-48

Common name:

Gray Hawk

Scientific name: Buteo nitidus
Date: 4-30-05
Time: 3:30 PM
Length of time observed: Over 10 minutes
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Location: Along the Santa Clara river about 1/2 mile above the town of Gunlock
County: Washington
Distance to bird: About 100 feet
Optical equipment: 10x42 Binns and a 20x60 zoom Zeiss scope
Weather: Partly cloudy sky with light wind
Light Conditions: Very good
Description:        Size of bird: Small Buteo
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Raptor
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Gray
(Description:)            Bill Type: Raptor beak
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
The head was solid gray without any distinguishing marks. It did have a bright yellow cere. The beak was dark. I didn't see any color in the eyes they looked to be dark.
The upperparts as well as the upperside of the wings were gray except for the wing tips which looked black.
The tail looked long and extended well past the tips of the primaries.
It was black and what I thought at the time of the sighting were 3 white bands.
The breast, belly and leg feathers had distinct fine gray and white barring. I didn't notice the undertail coverts and didn't see the underside of the wings.
The bare skin on the legs and feet was bright yellow.
Song or call & method of delivery:  
Behavior: I first saw the bird perched on a large rock in a field along side the Santa Clara river. As I watched it there it seemed to be watching the ground. After about 2 or 3 minutes it flew to the ground apparently after something. It stayed on the ground for about 15 seconds then it flew up into a tree along the river onto a open branch where I watched it for about 10 minutes. It must have missed whatever it was after. Then it flew back into a thicker area of trees about 20 feet downstream where it was difficult to see.
Habitat: Open field along a riparian area of willows and cottonwoods.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
The color and barring of the underparts seemed to eliminate everything but an adult Goshawk. A Red-shoulder or a Broad-winged hawk has rufous tones to the head and underparts and they
don't have that long of a tail. Maybe a Hook billed Kite has gray barred underparts but the shape and beak size eliminates that bird. The bird didn't have the very distinct dark head with pale supercilium lines of a adult Goshawk. A Goshawk also doesn't have the bright yellow cere and
legs that this bird had.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have seen many adult Gray Hawks in Arizona and Texas. I have seen a few adult Goshawks and the head is always distinct with good views. I've seen many adult and immature Red-shoulder and Broad-winged Hawks. I have seen Hook-billed Kites and the beak is easy
to notice.
References consulted: Sibley, North American Raptors
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Larry Tripp
Observer's address: 131 N. Butch Cassidy Trl
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird:  
Date prepared: 9-27-06
Additional material:  
Additional comments: I had very good looks at the front and back of this bird in the scope. The barred underparts and the plain gray head was observed in shadows and sunlight. I saw the tail barring as the bird
flew into the tree and as it was sitting in the tree. As the bird flew away from me into the tree I saw the white bars on the tail but forgot about looking for the white U at the base of the tail. I'm sure I saw it but just thought it was the 3rd white bar on the tail I was looking at while the bird was sitting in the tree. As I watched the bird in the tree through my scope (it was facing away from me with a slight side angle)the tail had a wide dark subterminal band then a narrower white band then a dark one about the same width as the white one then a 2nd white bar that looked a little narrower than the first another dark band then I could just see white which I thought was a 3rd white band that the wings were partially hidding but it was the white U at the base of the tail on the uppertail coverts. The primary tips were hanging to the side of the tail but looked like they reached to the 2nd dark band on the tail. I could see the barring on the legs from this view.

Unfortunately this sighting was along a small section of the Santa Clara river that is visible from the road. The rest of this large area of private property isn't accessible. I went home to get a camera but when I returned I was unable to relocate the bird. I went by there many times in the next few days and weeks but never saw the bird again. Almost a year and a half later I'm still kicking myself for not having a camera with me that day which I usually have in migration.

I never wrote it up right away hoping it would be seen again.