One of the research goals of the Red-tailed Hawk Project is to better understand the “Krider’s” Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis kriderii). There has long been debate about the validity of this currently recognized subspecies, because of its variability and that it breeds alongside (and with) birds we consider as the subspecies borealis. The two most popular competing thoughts are that 1) borealis expanded its distribution westward into the northern Great Plains along with the westward expansion of European settlement (consider homesteading and the resulting increase in trees) and is currently in a slow process of subsuming kriderii, or 2) kriderii represents a pale morph of borealis that is found in the northern Great Plains. The two may actually not be mutually exclusive, but for now our approach is to focus on collecting data so we can gain some insight that might inform a better perspective on the situation.
Bryce recently tagged 5 individuals in southern Louisiana, and 1 individual in western Missouri that all possess kriderii traits to some degree. The hope is that each will soon return to their breeding territories. Unlike the more northerly breeding phenotypes we have tagged, we should obtain breeding locations as the birds begin their reproductive effort this spring. Once we do, Bryce plans to travel to each territory and record the mate for each of these birds, and photograph the phenotypes of the offspring that come from each pair. Our hope is that this will compliment genomic analyses to describe the relatedness of individuals that posses kriderii traits, and those that are borealis in plumage.
Many thanks to the individuals in Louisiana that helped Bryce – Matt Mullenix, Garrett Rhyne, Dylan Bakner, and Patty Rodriguez.