Shortly after noon today I set up on Battle Hill in Greenwood Cemetery
hoping to witness some raptor migration. The birds were coming through, but
the clear conditions and lack of a low cloud deck kept most of the activity
high and at scope length.
There seemed to be two distinct tracks birds were taking; one from the NE
heading SW and one from the south heading north, eventually using the
northwest corner of the cemetery for an updraft and then drifting west
towards Staten Island.
The highlight was an apparent juvenile dark phase Broad-winged Hawk that
came through around 1pm taking the latter of the two tracks, in scope view
for roughly 3 minutes.
A few people have asked for details so here is a summation of the field
notes I took after the sighting and prior to consulting any references.

"Looked like a juv to me. It came bombing in from the south with two
accipiters (it was slightly larger than) then slowly gained altitude west
of battle hill before drifting off towards SI. The tail barring was dull
and the bands were thin and more numerous than an adult would have. The
upper wing seemed warmer near the body, but dark overall. Another birder
asked initially if it could be a Raven because it looked all black in his
scope.  The underwings appeared dark, potentially lighter in the primaries
and secondaries but hard to ascertain. Long, uniformly broad wings tapering
to a relatively rounded tip. Lots of RTHA around and this one jumped out
immediately as a small buteo. Classic BWHA shape on the gliding approach
with leading edge curving back and short tail held square."

Something I didn't mention in the notes was that the initial approach was
from the south the bird was backlit and the ID to species was made by shape
and size prior to realizing it was a dark bird. Only when it eventually
soared due west of our location was the color apparent.

Knowing this fall has had many well documented late BWHA records I wasn't
shocked by the species, but was aware at the time of the potential for
early Rough-legged Hawk. The small size of this bird and wing shape, along
with it's quick wingbeats and flat wings when soaring all support BWHA and
not RLHA.

I stepped away from the scope twice in attempts to photograph the hawk and
failed both times. This should give an idea of the distance in play. That
said, the lighting for the last minute plus was sunny and without any real
heat shimmer to speak of.

I am not aware of how many records of dark morph birds there are in our
area, but will be looking into it as well as checking some area hawkwatch
data in the NE to see if there have been any dark morph birds coming
through this year. If I find anything worth sharing I'll follow up to the

Other highlights included;

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Bald Eagle (adult)
American Kestrel
Purple Finch
Cape May Warbler

Good birding,

Sean Sime
Brooklyn, NY


NYSbirds-L List Info:


Please submit your observations to eBird:


Reply via email to