Iberianature Forum

Identify this raptor

  • 20 Replies
  • 22811 Views

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Keith

  • *
  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 25
    • Scenic Bird Tours
« on: May 18, 2008, 20:10 PM »
Further to my post on the Identifying Birds of Prey thread (which so far has failed to set the world alight) here is an example of how tricky this can be in the field.

This picture (and I know it's awful but sometimes you have to take what you can get, and this is at full resolution) shows a large raptor which I believe I misidentified in the field but now believe to be something else. My excuse is that as the bird crossed our path I only had time to use the camera, not binoculars, and made the understandable assumption.

The bird, seen today on my bird tour over the Guadalteba lake between Ardales and El Chorro, is clearly carrying a snake in its beak.

Let's see if this one stirs up some responses, anyone?

www.scenicbirdtours.com
Bird Tours and stunning scenery too
www.fincalimoneros.com
Accommodation for birders

Offline Dave

  • *
  • Full Shroomy
  • ******
  • Posts: 1302
  • León
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2008, 21:01 PM »
Hi keith
I am going for Short toed eagle (Esp: Culebrera europea) (Lat: Circaetus Gallicus). The reasons
a it is carrying a snake (Spanish name Snake Eagle)
b The rufuous collar (just visible)
c I like to give John C a laugh
Regards
Dave K

Offline Clive

  • *
  • Administrator
  • Full Shroomy
  • *****
  • Posts: 3001
  • Sierra de Grazalema
    • Wildside Walking Holidays - Spain
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2008, 21:12 PM »
Hi Keith....

Haven't had chance to welcome you to the forum yet so Welcome.... :) I'm not so far away from you over here in the Sierra de Grazalema.

With regards to your initial post you can rest assured that it has been read, enjoyed and digested by all. Please don't think that your post has been ignored.. Actually you will see that you have responses to it and compliments too....

Now, about this picture mystery.. Firstly I'd like to say that I hope this is the first of many... Maybe you could post one or two a month to keep us all on out toes....

I am going out on a limb here with the second guess and I am going to say Osprey....

as you said its not the best of images and probably it won't be identified from this image 100 percent sure but here are my reasons....

I have found the short toed eagles normally hold their head closer into the body even when carrying a snake and this bird seems to have a very long neck...

There is that odd black mark on the neck that I can't work out and the bird looks almost seagull like. If it's not an osprey I'd go for a seagull....

Lastly maybe that is not a snake in it's beak? What if it were an eel. I am sure there are eels in the guadalhorce river area (but not sure if they are in the reservoirs...)

So I am going for an Osprey.....

(I haven't thought about North African vagrants yet that may possibly be lurking around....)

PS if it is an osprey with a snake then you'll have to get the experts to rewrite the bird bible.....

If its not an Osprey then I will be the laughing stock of all here but I of course have administrator powers... :)

Clive

« Last Edit: May 18, 2008, 21:14 PM by Clive »
Explore the nature of Iberia at www.wildsideholidays.com

The beautiful town of Ronda, the City of Dreams?

The spectacular Caminito del Rey, El Chorro and Guadalhorce reservoirs El Camino del Rey

Offline John C

  • *
  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 352
    • Birding in Cadiz Province
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2008, 21:29 PM »
As it's carrying a snake Short-toed Eagle is the obvious candidate as the species is a specialist reptile eater - although other species of BoP will eat snakes (including, rather, improbably Osprey!).  Unfortunately, the photo lacks plumage details.  The head looks dark enough and the aft end is certainly pale enough to fit STE, but it's hard to go much beyond that.   So we're left pretty much with the bird's shape as a means to judge the identity of the species.  I might well be wrong, but I can't see anything about the bird's shape that excludes STE so, like Dave, this is the species I'd opt for,

John  

Offline lisa

  • *
  • Full Shroomy
  • ******
  • Posts: 2439
    • Accommodation and Activities in the Picos de Europa
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2008, 07:29 AM »
You're competing with Peter here in the fiendish stakes Keith  :P But I'm with Clive and plumping for Osprey. After looking at lots of pictures I think this bird has the Osprey collar and, though the photo's not clear, it doesn't seem to have the dark head of the STE; its most distinguishing feature for me (a beginner, be gentle with me  :)). I didn't know they hunted snakes though!
Intrigued to find out what you thought it was and what it is.
www.picos-accommodation.co.uk
Accommodation, ski touring, snowshoeing, walking and info on the flora and fauna of the Picos de Europa.
SAVE SPANISH BEARS!
And now,
The Picos de Europa
Your complete English guide to these beautiful mountains of Northern Spain.

Offline Clive

  • *
  • Administrator
  • Full Shroomy
  • *****
  • Posts: 3001
  • Sierra de Grazalema
    • Wildside Walking Holidays - Spain
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2008, 09:20 AM »
Its not a snake it's an eel..... :)

First rule of birding... never assume the obvious... Unless it's obvious.....

Clive
Explore the nature of Iberia at www.wildsideholidays.com

The beautiful town of Ronda, the City of Dreams?

The spectacular Caminito del Rey, El Chorro and Guadalhorce reservoirs El Camino del Rey

PeterJ

  • *
  • Guest
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2008, 13:58 PM »
Ummm, interesting and shame the photo is not better, but know what you mean Keith that you have to sometimes take what you can get. Pretty difficult given the poor photo, but all things considered I think the bird looks all wrong to me for Short-toed Eagle. Certainly by scale the wings look too short for STE and head shape/tail also don't fit for me. If I had to make a stab, then I would have to think of Bonelli as head/tail look good and the 'D' shape wings also would fit. Lighting is the biggest downer on the photo, but I reckon the darker head, pale body also would support Bonelli.

So lets hear from you Keith what do you think it is and why? :dancing:

Peter
www.spanishbirds.com

Offline lisa

  • *
  • Full Shroomy
  • ******
  • Posts: 2439
    • Accommodation and Activities in the Picos de Europa
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2008, 14:16 PM »
 :lighttbulb: Then of course, there's always La Paloma de La Paz  :)
www.picos-accommodation.co.uk
Accommodation, ski touring, snowshoeing, walking and info on the flora and fauna of the Picos de Europa.
SAVE SPANISH BEARS!
And now,
The Picos de Europa
Your complete English guide to these beautiful mountains of Northern Spain.

Offline Keith

  • *
  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 25
    • Scenic Bird Tours
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2008, 18:36 PM »
Thanks to all for splendid contributions. Here is the latest on what I think, though I am no surer than anyone else.

My first thought had been to take for granted that an eagle carrying a snake must be a Short-toed (as previously mentioned, the 'Snake Eagle'). However though I have seen a number of STEs carrying snakes, two things struck me at the time.

Firstly, the STE is accomplished at carrying snakes in its talons, not as here in its beak, something I have never seen (and a Google of images fails also to show, though images of them actually carrying snakes are notably hard to find). Hence, of course, the Short-toed name, which refers to the species having evolved just the ideal talons for grasping something as tricky as a snake.

Secondly, the snake is exceptionally small - authoritative sources such as detailed examinations of STE pellets have revealed a marked preference for larger snakes, which fits in with my own observations, though I suppose if they are hungry enough....

Both of these things I remarked on to my clients at the time but it didn't occur to me until I saw the photographs that the bird may be something else.

I am attaching another picture taken a moment later which shows a slightly different wing pattern. The wingtip clearly has four fingers - confirmed on some other (even worse) pictures to which, I realise, no-one else on the forum is privy. Pictures of the STE are very consistent in showing five or six fingers. This, with the general wing shape of markedly pressed forward carpals (with following trailing edge, unlike the straighter edge of the STE), and the dark collar but white - or at least pale - head, now lead me to believe that this is an Osprey. Other plumage details, as others have remarked,  are inconclusive as the bird was so heavily silhouetted in the afternoon sun.

The Bonelli's I think can be discounted due to the dark collar and the wing shape, similar arguments to the STE applying.

Anyway this may keep bubbling for a while yet, as Clive tells me he is seeking more expert advice, and I could be wrong yet.

One further thing - the eel option hadn't occurred to me and could be true. The bird, however, has the head of its prey firmly in its beak and it (the prey) looks dead as a doornail. Having seen a Grey Heron struggling for half an hour to kill an eel I suspect they are harder to extinguish than this, and I would have expected any self-respecting eel to have its body coiled around the bird's neck, a fate which repeatedly befell that poor heron.



www.scenicbirdtours.com
Bird Tours and stunning scenery too
www.fincalimoneros.com
Accommodation for birders

Offline Keith

  • *
  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 25
    • Scenic Bird Tours
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2008, 19:27 PM »
I meant to add that if anyone is interested they may find a full trip report of yesterday's tour, on which the pictures were taken, at the following link :

http://www.fincalimoneros.com/cgi-bin/web.asp?title=journal
www.scenicbirdtours.com
Bird Tours and stunning scenery too
www.fincalimoneros.com
Accommodation for birders

Offline Algarvebirdman

  • *
  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 15
    • Algarve Birdwatching
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2008, 21:40 PM »
Hi all,

For me - even with just a silhouette, there is no doubt whatsoever this is Short-toed Eagle - with or without snake. If you look hard (ie copy and enlarge image) you can discount the understandable Bonelli's Eagle hypothesis because the inside of the "hand" is pale all over (except for a little darkness on the underwing) and though some pale imm. Bonelli's can show "ghostly" underparts, the shape (head, tail and wings) is not of Bonelli's.  In Short-toed Eagle the shape is diagnostic and the head. though often dark can be pure white - especially (and usually) in 1st-2nd cal yr birds. It certainly cannot be an Osprey (with an eel or otherwise) either - the head pattern would be more than apparent as would darker markings on the underwing as well as having much shorter "fingers" and a completely different shape. Short-toed Eagles do have there own special feeling and rarely do they give any serious ID problems even on long-distance views.

Simon http://algarvebirdman.com/

Offline Clive

  • *
  • Administrator
  • Full Shroomy
  • *****
  • Posts: 3001
  • Sierra de Grazalema
    • Wildside Walking Holidays - Spain
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2008, 22:38 PM »
Well Keith you have had the opinion of the three best bird identifiers that are members of this forum..JohnC, PeterJ and Algarvebirdman (Who although is a new member here his reputation is well known. (Later birdman in the introduce yourself board?))...

So apart from me adding that the two pictures posted are incredibly bad (Exactly what are you using there :) )

Time for you to spill the beans before people get bored... Don't be shy it Ok if you say something wacky. Your reputation will remain intact.... :)

Clive
Explore the nature of Iberia at www.wildsideholidays.com

The beautiful town of Ronda, the City of Dreams?

The spectacular Caminito del Rey, El Chorro and Guadalhorce reservoirs El Camino del Rey

Offline Keith

  • *
  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 25
    • Scenic Bird Tours
« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2008, 23:17 PM »
Sorry Clive, I have no more beans to spill at present. Did you see my post this evening?

Keith

Well Keith you have had the opinion of the three best bird identifiers that are members of this forum..JohnC, PeterJ and Algarvebirdman (Who although is a new member here his reputation is well known. (Later birdman in the introduce yourself board?))...

So apart from me adding that the two pictures posted are incredibly bad (Exactly what are you using there :) )

Time for you to spill the beans before people get bored... Don't be shy it Ok if you say something wacky. Your reputation will remain intact.... :)

Clive
www.scenicbirdtours.com
Bird Tours and stunning scenery too
www.fincalimoneros.com
Accommodation for birders

Offline John C

  • *
  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 352
    • Birding in Cadiz Province
« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2008, 23:43 PM »
This is indeed a difficult photo from which to make a confident decision.  Keith makes a good point regarding the number of 'fingers', but given the awkward angle I'm not convinced that we can get an accurate impression.  As for STE's carrying snakes in their bill, I've seen them doing so - perhaps this might happen when they are disturbed as they start tucking into their meal.  Neither am I necessarily convinced by the relatively small size of the snake being a negative consideration as I can't see a STE declining an easy snack were it presented to them. 

I just don't feel this bird is 'right' for Osprey - difficult to say exactly why though.  Perhaps the wings don't look long enough (though they could be foreshortened by the telephoto lens), the tail doesn't quite seem right either and the head looks wrong too (is it too heavy?).  No all-in-all I can't really see any reasons why a STE can be confidently ruled out,

John

Offline Clive

  • *
  • Administrator
  • Full Shroomy
  • *****
  • Posts: 3001
  • Sierra de Grazalema
    • Wildside Walking Holidays - Spain
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2008, 00:31 AM »
Sorry keith, I absolutely missed your earlier post. had other things on my mind......

Goodness you thought it may be an Osprey as well? Amazing.

I think that with this image it is impossible to have a convincing identification and there is no way the the bird can be identified "without a doubt".

It could even be a common buzzard with a bedriagas skink in its beak! :)

One thing for sure though, I am looking forward to the next photo id quiz!

Clive
Explore the nature of Iberia at www.wildsideholidays.com

The beautiful town of Ronda, the City of Dreams?

The spectacular Caminito del Rey, El Chorro and Guadalhorce reservoirs El Camino del Rey

Offline Keith

  • *
  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 25
    • Scenic Bird Tours
« Reply #15 on: May 20, 2008, 19:15 PM »
I agree with you, Clive, am still not convinced either way.

I just spoke to my client Colin who has not been too well during his stay and he had the benefit of binoculars at the time. His opinion was negative on the Osprey. So on this basis I might have to revert to my first instinct and say that STE is the most likely, but from these pictures? Impossible. Anyway thanks to all and let's put this one to bed now. Unless anyone feels differently.
www.scenicbirdtours.com
Bird Tours and stunning scenery too
www.fincalimoneros.com
Accommodation for birders

Offline Algarvebirdman

  • *
  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 15
    • Algarve Birdwatching
« Reply #16 on: May 22, 2008, 00:39 AM »
With a firm belief in bettering ourselves - I really believe that this photo is totally diagnostic of S T Eagle without any complications whatsoever and I am dead sure that most of the Portuguese and Spanish ornithologists who I have worked with on raptor surveys over the years would agree. Don't mean to be sounding adamant about this but I do think things get easier the more you do them! Why not send it to the Migres program for another opinion?

PeterJ

  • *
  • Guest
« Reply #17 on: May 22, 2008, 19:22 PM »
With a firm belief in bettering ourselves - I really believe that this photo is totally diagnostic of S T Eagle without any complications whatsoever and I am dead sure that most of the Portuguese and Spanish ornithologists who I have worked with on raptor surveys over the years would agree. Don't mean to be sounding adamant about this but I do think things get easier the more you do them! Why not send it to the Migres program for another opinion?

Absolutely agree and I guess I am guilty of believeing Keith had definately id'd it as a different bird when I read his 1st post, no excuse, but will pay better attention in future!!! Go along with JohnC in that STE 'do' and often can be seen carrying snake in the bill and as far as showing of primaries are concerned, then this cannot be a criteria unless the bird is in typical pose in ideal conditions (which is about as useful as guide books for raptor flight sillouettes can be). Most raptors vary wing shape dependent on wind conditions and also activity, so to quote '5or6' primaries showing as the norm, will always depend entirely upon the conditions when the wing posture is observed.


Offline Technopat

  • *
  • Full Shroomy
  • ******
  • Posts: 3020
« Reply #18 on: July 21, 2008, 09:27 AM »
Greetings All,
PeterJ's mention of wind conditions etc. is my cue for asking 'bout the very large bird - which this non-expert has tentatively decided is a raptor - I saw soaring yesterday in the Toledo region and much bigger than the Black Kite which is pretty common there. Sweltering heat. 1400hrs more or less.

I was watching it from a distance - too far to see its real shape and colours as it went higher and higher in circles, but close enough to see that it didn't beat its wings and that they were pointy as opposed to spread-out feathers which I would normally suppose for soaring.

When it had literally become just a speck, it suddenly shot off at huge speed - but not swooping, just going with the wind - across the sky and over my head (still too high to notice any detail, but my impression was that it was black and white) but it had completely changed shape and looked like a very large but very squat mushroom, as if it had spread out all its feathers to take best advantage of the air current.

The most curious thing is that it looked as if it were moving backwards i.e. mushroom cap (very large but chubby) which would correspond to wings at the back and didn't look at all like a bird - in fact the two people with me were convinced it was some sort of UFO because they hadn't seen it from the first moment and didn't believe it was a bird.

Will try to get pics. next week when I go back!
Any-ideas-or-recommendations-for-positive-ID? regs.,
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

PeterJ

  • *
  • Guest
« Reply #19 on: July 21, 2008, 17:24 PM »
 :lighttbulb: Hi TP, From a very loose kind of description I think your bird may have been an Eygptian Vulture. Take a look at flight pictures etc in your fieldguide and see what you think. The bird would have shown as black and white, the wings pointed, the tail fairly long but diamond shaped and the head (from very long range) look almost non existent. Anyway take a look at a fieldguide and let me know what you reckon.

I hope this is helpful.

Peter
www.spanishbirds.com