Identifying a Mysterious Hawk – Red-tailed or Krider’s?

I recently photographed a majestic hawk perched on a sign near the auto tour road located at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. But here’s the thing: identifying it has turned into a delightful birding mystery! The bird seems to possess characteristics of both the Red-tailed Hawk and its lesser-known cousin, the Krider’s Hawk.

Red-tailed or Krider's
Red-tailed or Krider’s?

Now, you might be thinking, “Aren’t Krider’s Hawks just a type of Red-tailed Hawk?” Technically, yes. But like many subspecies, Krider’s Hawks have distinct regional variations, sporting paler plumage and whiter tails compared to their “redder” counterparts. My hawk shares some of these paler tones, leaving me wondering: could it be a rare intermediate between the two?

Here’s why this possibility excites me:

  • Subtle Plumage Variations: Red-tailed Hawks themselves exhibit diverse plumage within their subspecies. Could mine be an individual leaning closer to the Krider’s look?
  • Hybridization Magic: Though uncommon, Red-tailed and Krider’s Hawks can interbreed, creating offspring with a blend of features. Could I have captured a stunning example of this natural wonder?
  • Juvenile Mystery: Younger Red-tailed Hawks often boast paler plumage, potentially mimicking a Krider’s appearance. Could my photos capture a young hawk in transition?
Red-tailed, Krider's or Something Else
Red-tailed, Krider’s or Something Else?

I want to thank bird photographer Mia McPherson for being my go-to person for discussing difficult bird identification. When I couldn’t unravel whether my photos showed a Red-tailed, Krider’s or hybrid hawk, Mia’s expert eyes and insights were invaluable. Now I’m turning to the broader birding community. If you have experience identifying these raptors, please leave your expertise and suggestions in the comments below. Together we may solve this feathered puzzle and learn something new!

Hawks Piercing Eyes
Hawks Piercing Eyes

Here are some helpful resources for further information:

My past two blog post with more images of this bird: Witnessing a Red-tailed Hawk’s Art of Landing and Red-tailed Hawk’s Mysterious Ground Search

I also wrote a blog post on a rare young Krider’s Red-tailed Hawk while visiting this same refuge: A Rare Sighting: A Young Krider’s Hawk

All About Birds – Red-tailed Hawk:

From Jim Arterburn

Steve this is an immature “Eastern” morph of the Red-tail. Immatures have a pale eye and a greenish cere while adults have a dark eye and a yellow cere. The different forms of red-tails are called morphs and if two different morphs breed the resulting bird(s) are called intergrades not hybrids. I hope this helps.