Juvenile dark morph Harlan’s Hawk

Juvenile dark morph Harlan's HawkJuvenile dark morph Harlan’s Hawk – Nikon D300, f8, 1/1250, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Harlan’s Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis harlani) are a subspecies of Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) that breed in Alaska and northern Canada and spend their winters in the northern Great Plains. Harlan’s Hawks are a very dark form of Red-tailed Hawks with dark plumage interspersed with marbled white and they have a dark tail instead of a red one.

Lately I have been seeing reports that the Harlan’s have started to show up here in Utah again to over winter and that has me excited. I haven’t been able to photograph many Harlan’s Hawks but in January of 2013 I spotted this juvenile dark morph Harlan’s feeding on a coot at Farmington Bay WMA.  This was during a very cold and snowy part of the winter when all of the raptors were having a hard time finding food to sustain them because of heavy snow cover on the ground. Quite a few hawks, eagles and owls died during that cold stretch of time due to the harsh conditions we had.

I will be looking for Harlan’s Hawks now along with Rough-legged Hawks which are also Arctic breeders and hope to photograph some of them soon.

Life is good.



  1. Neil October 21, 2014 at 9:27 am

    They’re been seeing Rough-legged Hawks and Harlan’s Red-tails in small numbers at the Goshutes for the past week now Mia. Looking forward to the winter!

  2. Utahbooklover October 20, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    Thanks for this introduction of this subspecies for me. Nice to know they are here. My 2014 SIBLEY GUIDE TO BIRDS says “generally uncommon, nesting in central Alaska and wintering mainly from Nebraska and Iowa to Texas and Arkansas, with small numbers west to California, but very rare eastward.”

  3. SkyHawker4 October 20, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Harlan’s Hawk just beautiful–Made my day better looking at such beauty! Thanks

Comments are closed.