Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2018-18c

Common name:

Zone-tailed Hawk

Scientific name: Buteo albonotatus
Date: 08-06-2018
Time: 5:47pm
Length of time observed: 30 minutes
Number: 1
Age: adult
Sex: ?
Location:  Lava Point
County: Washington
Elevation:  7,900ft
Distance to bird: Closest approach was 50m
Optical equipment: Nikon 10x42
Weather: sunny
Light Conditions: excellent
Description:        Size of bird: 22in
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Large long winged buteo
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Jet black,white bands in tail
(Description:)            Bill Type:  typical hooked raptor bill
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Shortly after I arrived at Lava point, I was looking over the view point to the north, and noticed a dark raptor flying bellow me. It was a hawk, not a vulture or condor as it had a black feathered head. It flew with a prominent dihedral as it circled just above the canopy of the forest. It was jet black above and below, except for 2 white bands on the upper and lower surface of the tail, and gray and black barring in the underside of the flight feathers. It flew around the edge of the point and I lost sight of it. Then a couple minutes later I re-found it flying low over the forest edge on top of the plateau a hundred meter to the south. It slowly circled and then flew very close to the east and then went back over the escarpment to the north, giving excellent looks, but difficult to photo due to trees being around me, but I did manage a few documentation shots.It seemed to be riding the updrafts along the edge of the cliffs.
Song or call & method of delivery: None heard
Behavior: Soaring over and around plateau escarpment
Habitat: Mixed conifer forest and cliffs
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Superficially similar to a Turkey Vulture, but feathered head,yellow cere and banding in tail and on underside of the flight feathers noted. Common Black Hawk more similar, but they have shorter more rounded wings with thick black edges to flight feathers, and a different more level flight, also they don't often soar for long periods, plus they have only 1 thick white band in the tail, not the 2 that I saw. Some other dark morph Buteos could be similar, but Swainson's, 'Western' Red-tailed and Ferruginous Hawks should have a more rufous brown not black tone(usually) and different tail pattern, dark morph Harlan's Red-tail and Rough-legged Hawks could be blackish,but shouldn't be here in August and have different banding pattern in tail and different method of soaring, more level held wings. A distant Golden Eagle could also be similar, but are dark brown not black and have dark primaries, and much longer wings in proportion, plus a different method of soaring too.
(see photos)
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Yes, I've seen many in Arizona and Mexico, 1st in Utah. I've also seen many Turkey Vultures,Common Black Hawks, Golden Eagles and dark morph Red-tailed, Ferruginous, Swainson's, and Rough-legged Hawks.
References consulted: Memory
Description from: From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Bryant Olsen
Observer's address:  84102
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: They have been seen in this vicinity several times earlier this year
Date prepared: 08-14-18
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: eBird checklist: