Monday, August 18, 2008

Another short tale of Short-tails

It was one of those great moments in Arizona birding. The year was 1999. Just a couple of days after searching unsuccessfully for a pair of birds in upper Miller Canyon, I was fortunate to see a light morph Short-tailed Hawk sail past me and my group in the Chiricahuas. This was a species I had been hoping to see for years in Arizona, and aside from two much older sight records from the Huachucas and Chiricahuas in the 1980's, Short-tailed Hawk was essentially unknown in Arizona. In April of 1999, Mike Lanzone had spotted what was no doubt the same bird in the Chiricahuas that I had just seen.

Fast forward to 2001, when the Chiricahuas again hosted Short-tailed Hawks. It was this year that juveniles first began being detected. On two consecutive days I saw young juveniles flying above Carr Canyon in the Huachucas and in the Chiricahuas. And so it has continued every year. Short-tailed Hawks have been found at a few additional sights including one that wintered in the Tucson valley. Nesting was confirmed in 2007, though the evidence was overwhelming long before an actual nest was detected.

Since that time, the unimaginable has happened.  I can no longer keep track of the number of Short-tails I have seen in the state. The juvenile photographed above was seen on August 8, 2008 and represents another year's breeding effort from birds in the Chiricahuas. It makes me happy just knowing that this species patrols the skies of Arizona.

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