3 thoughts on “Who dropped this banded feather?”

  1.   puffin Hi Dorothy, thanks for writing. I think I have an answer for you. This is a fairly large feather, at 24 cm (9 1/2 in), so we can rule out smaller birds. There aren’t that many birds with black and white banded feathers, and in North America they are almost all raptors. Many hawks have white and black tail feathers, but if you look at the bands on your feather, you’ll see that the black bands are wider than the white, which eliminates many species. And the tip of the tail is white.

    red shouldered hawk featherAfter looking through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Feather Atlas, the raptor that matches well, in terms of size, relative width of the black versus white bands, as well as the white tip, is the red shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus). Check out this page of the atlas, and I think you’ll agree it matches your feather pretty well. Red shouldered hawks breed in Michigan this time of year, and they molt a few feathers at a time from April to November. I think that’s who dropped your feather. Tom

    Source: Dykstra, C. R., J. L. Hays, and S. T. Crocoll (2008). Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.107

  2.   envelope Hi Tom–Thanks so much for the reply. I still have a question, if you don’t mind. I’m sending another picture of the same feather, since the first one wasn’t all that good. In this new photo you can see that it is wider at the bottom, and part way up becomes narrow. Also the color is more white and brown, not white and black. Just wondering if you still think it is a red shouldered hawk. Thanks again, I really appreciate it! Dorothy
  3.   puffin Hi Dorothy, Thanks for the additional photo. I still think this is a red shouldered hawk. When I said black and white, I really mean dark and light. Most of the hawks are actually dark brown, rather than black. And as far as the shape of your feather, it’s a little beat up. You can see the tattered edge. That’s an indication that it was an old feather. I suspect that’s the reason for the indentation in the middle. Just wear.

    Having gone through the entire Fish and Wildlife collection of raptor feathers, the red shouldered hawk is really a very good fit. Here’s a photo of a red shouldered hawk showing the brown-ness of the tail. Tom

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