Bird Baldness Follow-up

I need to follow-up on the red-tailed vulture post from early October. I knew people, including myself, enjoy something a little different or odd. Like Bird Baldness. That was proven as this was far and away my most viewed blog post. It was linked to a couple of different sites including Facebook and that brought in additional views.

Species of Hawk

Since there were more views I received more responses. A couple which corrected me and clarified the species of hawk as a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk. In the field I original thought it was too small for a Red-tailed Hawk. But since it seemed to have problems I thought it was a smaller Red-tailed. I should have looked closer.

Raptors of North America has an excellent web page that shows the differences in the two hawks. After reading the webpage and looking at the photos, it was evident it was a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk.

rtha-head-4 Bird Baldness
The most evident field mark demonstrating it’s a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk are tail bands. Red-shouldered Hawks have fewer bands and the dark bands are wider than the light-colored bands. Red-tailed Hawks have more bands and the light-colored are wider.
Red-shouldered Hawks have brown streaks or spots on their chest as opposed to the Red-tailed Hawks belly bands. The spots are pretty evident once I looked.

Bird Baldness

Now onto possible problems with the head. I found a few websites that might have the answer. Most dealt with Blue Jays but I think the information applies to this hawk.

A couple of explanations:

  1. Juveniles undergoing their first prebasic molt.
  2. The baldness may result from feather mites, lice, or an environmental or nutritional factor.

On Cornell Lab’s Project Feeder Watch they have a good article describing unusual birds. Most of the bald birds reported are Blue Jays which “may be juveniles undergoing their first prebasic molt, which produces the first winter adult plumage.” Most of the birds grow their feathers back within a week.

The article goes on to state “If you notice a bald-headed bird of another species, it could be the result of an abnormal molt. Staggered feather replacement is the normal pattern for most birds.” That is what I think is going on with this hawk. I’ve been back a few times but haven’t encountered it. But I’ll keep checking and hopefully catch up to it.

If interested here are a few links concerning bird baldness. They each contain other links as well.

Nature Nut Lady

Tails of Birding

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