New Mexico Birds: Accipitriformes


This order includes hawks, eagles, and kites. Hover over a photo series to control the images.

Accipitridae: Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

Cooper's hawks are the common hawks throughout Albuquerque—hence my many photos. For my blog about a close encounter with two Cooper's hawks, click here. Sharp-shinned hawks, presented below, are very similar.


Accipitridae: Sharp-Shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)

My main reason for thinking that these images show a sharp-shinned hawk, as opposed to a Cooper's hawk, is the dark "cap" not being confined to the top of the head. Instead the dark patch extends down the back of the head (the nape) like a mullet. Other things to look for are a squared-off tail (when at rest), the outer tail feathers a bit longer than the inner ones, and the eyes being about halfway back on the head. But am I 100 percent sure it's a sharp-shinned? Nope. I'll throw in distant photos of a soaring juvenile, for which the ID is even more tentative.


Accipitridae: Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

New Mexico's red-tailed hawks typically have brown heads. That's what you see above. The eastern variety has a brown-and-white head. That's what you see below. I included a blurry photo of the eastern variety taking off because it shows the underside coloration. The eastern variety usually ranges from Texas east but individuals sometimes wander as far west as California.



Accipitridae: Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)

In August 2020 I saw my first Swainson's sitting on top of a light pole on Mesa del Sol. Aside from limited development, that's a treeless piece of high desert—the kind of open area where Swainson's hawks prefer to hunt. 


In April 2021 I added an even fuzzier photo because it shows what you're likely to see from a distance, and because I was able to include insets showing the hawk in flight. The May 2022 photo was taken from closer up, but the lower part of the body is obscured.


In September 2021 I encountered an immature Swainson's in the bosque, in a treetop where it could inspect a large cleared space.


Accipitridae: Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus)

All four June 2021 images are of the same hawk, which I interrupted having lunch (a lizard). Twice during our encounter, it dive-bombed me. A couple of the photos show the white in the tail feathers, but just barely. In flight, the tail has an obvious white band that can be seen from below or above (see the thumbnail to the left). Use that white band plus the black head and short tail to help distinguish a flying black hawk from a vulture.


Accipitridae: Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Bald eagles drift into Albuquerque during the winter, roosting in the Bosque and flying above the Rio Grande. Usually they're distant large birds, barely more than spots in the sky—identifiable because of the contrast between the dark body and the white head and tail. Immature bald eagles and golden eagles can look very similar, but the patterning of brown and white is different. For a brief YouTube video featuring one of these bald eagles, click here.


Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)

Mississippi Kite, Ictinia mississippiensis, New Mexico



From a distance, the striking thing about these birds of prey is how thin their wings are. The thumbnail at the left, with two images of the same individual, illustrates this. The dark tail distinguishes them from the locally less common white-tailed kite.


Pandionidae: Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)