Thursday, July 28, 2011

White-tailed Hawk

The White-tailed Hawk, a neotropical buteo of dry, open areas, is one of the most widespread yet least studied raptors of the Americas. It occurs from south Texas down to Argentina. I saw a couple of adults this morning on the campus of Zamorano University in Honduras, while walking Old Jack, the dog that's currently in my care. The hawks were low in a kettle of vultures that also had an immature Zone-tailed Hawk.

While entering today's observations into eBird, I was curious to see how many White-tailed Hawk records eBird has for the region. Well, surprisingly few! For Honduras, only 5 sightings, spanning the period May 29 - July 28, 2011 - all from Zamorano University campus! (Confession: I have seen this bird elsewhere in Honduras, for example just north of San Marcos de Colón, in the department of Choluteca, but this was before I started using eBird.) For El Salvador: nada! Nicaragua? Nada! Belize - which gets more tourist birders - has records scattered throughout the year, but most in the period Feb-Apr. Guatemala? Nada!

In Central America, only the birding eco-tourism countries - Belize, Costa Rica, Panama - have records in eBird for this species. Of course it occurs in the other countries, but with far fewer observers entering data, those countries remain at present 'white areas' on the eBird map for this (and many other) species.

For the time being, the eBird map for White-tailed Hawk does a better job mapping birding tourism than it does the distribution of this species. Hopefully this will change over time.

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