Ontario Birds Raptor Quiz Answers

Hi everyone,

Hope you enjoyed the quiz! Below are the answers.

1) Osprey: Bright white underneath w/ dark carpals and flight feathers. Very long wings (proportionally) w/ a significant ‘M’ shape while gliding. Aging and sexing Ospreys is quite difficult and, I believe, should only be done when the bird is giving adequate views in good lighting. First years tend to have a warmer coloration throughout the underside and show pale mottling to the upperwings. Typically, an Osprey with a clean, unmarked underside signifies a male and a bird with significant bib signifies a female.

2) Northern Harrier (Juvenile): Long, narrow wings and tail; build is quite lanky. Light and buoyant; structure and buoyancy gives rise to its classic elegant and effortless coursing overtop weedy fields and marshes. Pale, unstreaked buffy tones suggest a spring juvenile (first calendar year) bird.

3) Golden Eagle (Immature; first or second year bird): Massive. Built like a giant Buteo (like a cross between a Red-tailed and a Rough-legged); proportionally small head and long tail, very wide wings, long primary tips (fingers), wings distinctly ‘lobed’@ secondaries and “pinched in” toward the body (unlike plank-like wing shape of Bald Eagle). Immatures such as this one often show diagnostic white wing patches.

4) Red-tailed Hawk (Adult): Red-tailed Hawks are a great bird to get to know well. They’re quite common and as such can be studied carefully and studied often. Note the red tail (a giveaway), the patagials (though, lightly marked on this individual), the relatively stocky (muscular) proportions (compare to the lankiness of the Northern Harrier). Typical example of an eastern
bird (borealis) given how lightly marked the underside is. Strong rufous aspect likely due to a variety of conditions present (warm light, back-lit, etc.) when the picture was taken.

5) Peregrine Falcon (Adult): Note the distinctly tapered and pointed wing-tips, blackish head w/ pale throat (helmeted appearance), light pinkish-white tone to the underside (most individuals show a pale chest and throat w/ barring visible from the belly downwards; though the barring can be quite light (tundrius), darker underwing contrasting with pale underbody, proportionally long tail. IMHO: The proportionally small head on a very broad and bulky fuselage point to this bird being a female. Open to thoughts on this!

6) Red-shouldered Hawk (Adult): Distinctly orangish/rufous body and underwing, plain, whitish flight feathers (at a great distance), proportionally long wings ‘squared-off’ at the primary tips (hands), black primary tips adjacent to pale crescents (faintly seen), proportionally long tail (fully fanned in this instance) w/ black-and-white banding (very hard to see in this shot).

7) Rough-legged Hawk (Light morph. First year): Long and lanky but slightly more muscular build than Northern Harrier (both birds built for effortless, buoyant flight), pale chest, substantial belly band, peachy underwing, dark carpals, proportionally long tail. First year birds can be readily identified by smoky trailing edge to wings (bold black on adults), dusky terminal band on tail (well defined on adults) and relatively unmarked underwing area (often more marked on adults).

8) Bald Eagle (Sub-adult IV): Birds in their first year of adulthood often have some white to the underwing and some dark areas to the head and tail. An adult bird, by all means, but, specifically, a sub-adult IV. Proportionally large head and nearly in balance with its tail length (compare these proportions to Golden Eagle), all-dark underside, long and thick wings of which are plank-like in shape. Under closer inspection, one would be able to see the long primaries (hands) that are characteristic of eagles (and vultures, to some degree).

9) Broad-winged Hawk (Adult): Pale below w/rufous wash to upperparts (faintly seen in this particular pic), relatively un-marked below, boldly banded tail, chunky body, short and stocky build, short wings that are relatively pointed at the primary tips (hands).

10) American Kestrel (Male): Extremely dainty and slender build, slim and very pointed wings, long tail. Tough to sex this bird given the picture, but, male by fanned tail revealing a broad dark terminal band.

11) Red-tailed Hawk (Adult): Muscular proportions, red tail (diagnostic), “helmeted” with an unmarked throat, patagial bars, wing commas (pale areas between the two field marks create “head-lights” on head-on birds), faint belly band. A typical example of an eastern bird (borealis).

12) Broad-winged Hawk (Adult): A back-lit example showcasing the same features as specimen 9 (note: the rufous chest is difficult to see here).

13) Rough-legged Hawk (Light morph. Adult female): The split-belly band showcased here makes for an interesting specimen. Note the combination of dusky head-pale chest-belly band from this angle. Note the pale, though slightly marked, underwing + carpal patches and white undertail on a proportionally long tail that reveals a dark terminal band. Also, see the well-defined dark trailing edge to the wings (compare to first year bird [7]).

14) Red-shouldered Hawk (First year): Proportionally long wings and tail (for a Buteo); at a great distance can appear goshawk-like (esp. juveniles) because of this species’ tendency towards a GISS that reveals a superficial merging of broad and bulky + long and lean. Pale underside with modest streaking, translucent commas near the wing tips (great identifier when seen well), relatively squared-off wing tips. This shot captures the strongly parabolic wing orientation; in some cases, Red-shouldered Hawks appear as though they’re ‘embracing the sky’ when in a full soar. Watch for this this spring!

15) Peregrine Falcon (Adult): Note distinctly tapered and pointed wing-tips, blackish head (helmeted), pale, whitish throat and chest, dusky belly (barred, but viewed at a great distance), and proportionally long tail.

16) Bald Eagle (First year): First year birds are mostly dark underneath with white on the axillaries and varying amounts of white on the underwing coverts. Compare distribution of white with Golden Eagle (immature). Shape described in example 8.


Dunne, P., D. Sibley, and C. Sutton. 1988. Hawks in Flight. Houghton Mifflin (Boston).

Liguori, J. 2005. Hawks from Every Angle. Princeton University Press (Princeton, N.J.).