Luke and Bryce recently captured this amazing juvenile Rough-legged x Red-tailed Hawk hybrid in eastern Kansas.
Here is our breakdown of the identification – Note the multiple Rough-legged Hawk traits such as head coloration and pattern, including pale auriculars; subtle carpal patch; buffy base coloration to breast and underwing; pale and unpatterned base to flight feathers on wing, especially in the primaries; seemingly unpatterned greater upperwing coverts (expected to be more patterned in RTHA, especially harlani); fairly solid and noticeable bellyband that sits lower than expected for RTHA; long wing and tail measurements; relatively small feet for RTHA; and tarsi feathering more extensive than RTHA. Otherwise, the bird looks mostly like a juvenile harlani in plumage, especially the tail pattern.
Our hope is that over the next few years, we are able to capture other individuals like this to better understand the regularity of hybridization events in the Red-tailed Hawk. For now, eBird and the Macualay Library are serving as great resources for strengthening our understanding of how often this hybrid pair occurs. You can explore images of hybrid Red-tailed X Rough-legged Hawks in the Macaulay Library here.