Saturday, April 20, 2013

Raptors high above

A curious thing about our last trip to the Chiriqui highlands in western Panamá last month was the great number of raptors that we saw up there, most of them migrating.  Starting at the foothills with Barred Forest-Falcons, Yellow-headed Caracaras and Roadside Hawks, the variety was quite good.  Can you id the raptor in the next photo?
Once in the highest part, at El Respingo, above 2550 meters above sea level, we witnessed a spectacle: hundreds of migrant Swainson's and Broad-winged Hawks flying back to North America above our heads.  By far the highest number of Buteos I had ever seen in the highlands.
That's because, usually, the only Buteo we see in the Chiriqui's highlands is the resident race of Red-tailed Hawk.  This bird in particular was far away... so we weren't able to check all the field marks... but considering that migratory races of this species are rare in Panamá, we assume that this one belonged to our residents.
Little before that, we witnessed an uncommon migrant raptor, an adult Sharp-shinned Hawk, fiercely chasing a Wilson's Warbler.  I mention this because when we were trying to decide where to have lunch, I saw a raptor elevating in a thermal just in front of the hotel in Guadalupe.  At first sight, I thought it was an immature Sharp-shinned gaining height... but it was apparent that this bird was larger and bulkier.  I took a couple of shots... look at them and let me know what you think.
All the photos show the typical Accipiter shape, with long tail and relatively short wings... but all my photos show the rounded tip to the tail, a field mark for Cooper's Hawk, a vagrant to Panamá, with only some records.  Anyone agree?

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