To live on the sixth floor of an apartment block over a hill in Panama City has its advantages. One is that you can have close encounters with the raptors that take advantage of the ascending thermal current to gain height. Only good lucks assure you a correct ID of some of theses raptors, specially if one of these mimics a more common species.
That is the case of the Zone-tailed Hawk. Of course there is no doubt of its identity in the above photo... but when you see this bird high in the sky, it becomes quite difficult to separate from the similar Turkey Vulture. In fact, with some experience you can notice the smaller size of the hawk as the first evidence of its identity. Some days ago, I had the opportunity to watch one of these masters of flight circling close to my apartment. I had my camera close, so I grabbed it just before noticing that the bird was turning towards me.
After a few seconds, it was flying just in front of me, mere 4 or 5 meters away! The bird saw me directly without deviating from its course... I could swear I felt its penetrating glare!
The hawk gained height swiftly, leaving me astonished! Now that's the way to enjoy a Zone-tailed!