[birding] Strange raptor near Coffin Butte / E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area

Joel Geier joel.geier at peak.org
Wed Oct 25 13:55:07 PDT 2017

Hi all,

This morning around 10 AM an unusual large raptor was hunting over a field
north of the intersection of Robison Rd.and Wiles Rd. This location is
about half a mile west of the NW corner of E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area,
north of Coffin Butte. The intersection is in Benton County but the bird
was close to half a mile out from the road, so may have been in Polk

>From the hunting behavior (gliding very low over a grass field and
intermittently flapping, frequently changing directions) at first glance
I thought it was a Northern Harrier.

On the other hand, when I viewed it through binoculars, it appeared to 
have dark (almost black) underwing coverts contrasting with white flight 
feathers, like on a dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk or Red-tailed Hawk. 

On the other hand (I think we're up to three hands now, calling to mind
the joke about the mine superintendent who wishes that someone would send
him a one-handed geologist), the top side of the wings looked to be 
entirely pale, which doesn't make sense for either of those options. Also 
I couldn't pick up much of a tail pattern -- it  looked vaguely pale and 
buffy, with no clear banding.

This was a L-O-O-NG way off so really hard to see details. Maybe I 
could have even gotten the top and bottom patterns mixed up -- it was 
far enough off that I can't exclude that possibility.

I tried to go back with my scope but the battery on our 2nd vehicle was 
dead. I tried again just now after Becky came back from town with the
Prius, but I couldn't find the bird.

So, it's a mystery for now. Possibilities to think about besides a 
weirdly plumaged harrier or buteos might include Short-eared Owl, if I 
got the top & bottom sides mixed up.

I'll try again tomorrow morning, but meanwhile, figured I should put 
out a "heads-up" in case anyone else gets out in that area.

Happy birding,

Joel Geier
Camp Adair area north of Corvallis

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