I rediscovered this Redtail pair about ten days after the previous page and have observed them -- one or both -- almost daily since.

There are many variations on the practice of pair-sitting. The textbook version is side-by-side. But here's another fashion -- facing each other. See, first I am already sure this is a pair by having found them pair-sitting before. Earlier in this Wintertails section I have another example of the facing pair-sitting.

And while I pretty confident it won't be compared to the work of Darwin, my unique sectional sofa theory of pair-sitting is explained on another page. It is however as controversial, well maybe. I aspire to be hated by at least one evangelical somebody or other.

The pair pictured here shows our couple only twenty feet off the ground -- about one-third the height seen previously. They are tucked into the treeline on a day with strong NW winds. The field, to their left, is SE.

Plumage, on both these birds, matches the photo on the previous page. Here the male is the lower bird facing us. I track several features on Redtails using my eye and digital images to ID individuals of the course of the Winter.

Head size [to body] is not only useful in Redtails, but the idea of sexing raptors by shape comes from Snowy Owls! Males, like the lower bird have tapering bodies with the tail appearing to be an extension of that taper. Female Redtails often look small-headed [because their bodies are wide].

In Snowy Owls, males taper from their big heads to the point that they often resemble nightjars. Female Snowies have heads that look like just an extension of the shoulders... no neck. On the other end, the tail seems short as it sticks out of the body.

This Photoshop composite -- front and back -- provides two views of a young adult Redtail on Pt. Peninsula from November 2007. This is as dark and solid a back as you'll come across. At a distance from behind, you might mistake it for a dark morph bird. Although here, on the right, you can glimpse the white crissum.

This bird has a strong subterminal tail band, it doesn't appear to have any other banding. Note that the tail on this adult bird extends well beyond the wing tips.

With the front view, we can see a wide and heavily marked bellyband and even some hefty collaring. The face is golden but the malar mark is so extensive that it seems to cover everything facial. The supercillium is restricted to a brown splash -- very Western-like.

Here's one of these birds in flight. Lots of markings:

  • Hooded, with a striated throat that is seen in Western birds as well as our Eastern beasties!
  • Major league patagial marks.
  • And nice checkering around underwing coverts.
  • Nearly solid, wide bellyband.
  • Although underwing coloring not as warm [red] as some.

This Redtail on the wing seems to have a female body shape -- wide at both ends, not tapering. Because of this massive fusilage, the head looks small.

And now for something completely different. In August on Pt. Peninsula I did something that I do rarely. I glimpsed and slammed. This bird was something over fifty yards away flashing the high contrast between head and back.

Not just that this bird has a gray-white head, but, the wings and other markings are not toned down, as in an overall pale bird. This gives the bird the look of an "interesting species." Now what species? Well that's what had me abruptly backing up for a second look. In Summer, one would be jonesing for some kind of kite.

But what we've got is a Redtail plumage variant I hadn't seen before. Based on the date, of course, this is likely a dispersing bird hatched to the South of this area... likely, the Ohio River valley or from the Mid-Atlantic region.

Now, if you've been playing along at home, you already know that the Winter odds are astromonical that the bird at the left would be around later. A typical wintering Redtail would have a dark head, odds are.

Some observers are a little more challenged than others when it comes to knowing the odds and the differences... in the details. So even if you like the head on this bird [left] especially when contrasted by the brown back, you should look at the breast.

Juvenile Roughlegs have solid bellybands [below] and usually exhibit white heads, while our wintering Redtails are hooded. For Basic I Roughleg males and beyond, you would see that area beginning to open up and nearly vanish. Again for that link above, it demonstrates that the bellyband is classic well-marked Wintertail and not Roughleg.