Proposal (936) to South American Classification Committee



Add Buteo jamaicensis (Red-tailed Hawk) to main list



Effect on South American CL: This transfers a species from the Hypothetical List to the main List as a Vagrant species.


Background: Buteo jamaicensis is a regular migrant to Central America (fig. 1), with a few sight records from Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, and Colombia (eBird 2022, Hilty 2003).



Description automatically generated\


Figure 1. Distribution of Buteo jamaicensis (eBird 2022). Purple squares represent the frequency of records/presence of the species, more intense purple corresponds to a higher frequency of records.


New records with evidence: One photographed on Tobago on 24 February 2014 (Kenefick 2015). For Colombia, at least three records with photo, in November 2018 by Luis Prada (, and in November 2020 by Gustavo Lara (, both from Antioquia.


Recommendation: Yes on this proposal.


Literature cited


eBird. 2022. eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance. eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Available: (Accessed:  February 1, 2022).


Hilty, S. 2003. Birds of Venezuela. Princeton University Press.


Kenefick, M. 2015. Twelfth Report of the Trinidad and Tobago Birds Status and Distribution Committee: Records Submitted in 2014. Living World, Journal of The Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club, 2015, 75-80.



Jhonathan Miranda, February 2022





Comments from Robbins: “YES.  Photos confirm the identification.”


Comments from Claramunt: “YES. The photo by Luis Prada shows the dark head, dark propatagial coverts, dark crescents on the distal primary coverts, the strikes forming a breast band, the darkish and longish tail (compared to Geranoaetus) without any strong light or dark band, all pointing to Buteo jamaicensis. I fail to find any other species that would show even a couple of these characteristics. In the photos by Gustavo Lara the specimen if farther away but in the second photo the diagnostic rufous tail is clearly visible. A specimen in hand would have been better but a close examination of the evidence seems sufficient in this case.”


Comments from Jaramillo: “YES.  I am reasonably comfortable with raptor identification, and there is only one potential pitfall here and that is Rufous-tailed Hawk (Buteo ventralis). No other raptor has the shape, number of fingers, dark patagial band, pale breast and darker belly band etc. shown by the birds in the proposal. The reality is that ventralis may even be conspecific with Red-tailed and is an isolate, but they are different in habitat choice and likely have been separate for quite a bit of time. So I will let that question sit.


“However, trying to separate a Rufous-tailed from a Red-tailed is perhaps not possible given current knowledge, or at least it is very difficult. In my experience Rufous-tailed may show more banding on the primaries, in the manner of a “Harlan’s” Hawk, and in breeding habitat resembles Harlan’s more than typical Red-tailed. Pale morph individuals show strongly cinnamon washed underparts, although some Central American forms of jamaicensis are similar in this respect. Nevertheless, one does have to consider some element of probability here, as we did with Red-winged Blackbird. Rufous-tailed Hawk is not a species that wanders, it is essentially restricted to southern forests, and it is absent for thousands of km from the Red-tailed Hawk records reported in the proposal. On the other hand, those reports are nearly contiguous with other sightings to the north connecting with resident populations of jamaicensis. As such, I am comfortable accepting Red-tailed Hawk to the South American list given the unlikely situation that ventralis could be wandering to the north in this manner.”


Comments from Stiles: “YES. The photo by Lara seems to me sufficient to clinch this case.. the dark carpal bar and distinct dark "wrist" of the primary coverts, as well as the apparent darkish barring of the remiges and the definitely plain, unbarred rufous tail are diagnostic for the eastern race of the Red-tail, which is presumably the most likely on geographical grounds.  For what it´s worth, the resident Costa Rican race is considerably more buffy below and is not known to migrate.  The only possibility of a SA species is B. ventralis of southern Patagonia, which virtually lacks rufous on the undertail - it has a dark carpal bar, but the wing linings are much more buffy, and the tips of the primaries are much more sharply black in strong contrast to the otherwise nearly white remiges. This species also is apparently not migratory, such that it would be most unlikely to be seen so far away from its home, So YES to adding jamaicensis to the SA list as a vagrant.”


Comments from Lane: “YES. The photos show Buteo jamaicensis (Alvaro I think has argued well for the exclusion of B. ventralis in these cases), and it seems the species should be expected to northern South America. I will add that the photo of the Tobago record cited in the proposal is similarly conclusive. There is one additional photographed Colombian record on eBird that was not mentioned here,, which also seems to be a correctly identified (although the photos are not quite as obvious). In all, I think there is sufficient evidence to include B. jamaicensis on the South American list.”


Comments from Brian Sullivan (who has Remsen’s vote): YES.  I took the liberty of processing these images so that you can see the birds a bit better. I think both of these are RTHA, but there’s something odd about the wing shape of the first bird—a bit pointy. But probably nothing that can’t be explained by odd photo effects. It doesn’t surprise me that a few trickle into northern South America—they appear to be much more regular in Panama. In any case, I’d vote add as a vagrant on this one. Just don’t ask me what subspecies these birds might be… “



A bat flying in the sky

Description automatically generated with medium confidence




A bird flying in the sky

Description automatically generated




A bird flying in the sky

Description automatically generated



A fish in the water

Description automatically generated with medium confidence



A bird flying in the sky

Description automatically generated


Comments from Areta: “YES. I vote YES. I agree with what Alvaro wrote. I also checked on this with Matías Juhant, who agreed with the ID. More studies are needed on the taxonomy of these hawks! The Hypothetical List  note says the following:


Buteo jamaicensis Red-tailed Hawk: At least five sight records from Colombia (Strewe 2001, Castaño & Colorado 2002) and one from Venezuela (Hilty 1999).  One photographed on Tobago on 24 Feb. 2014 (Kenefick 2015).  A number of photographs, at least one by G. R. Lara identifiable, from Antioquia on 2 November 2020: (”


Comments from Zimmer: “YES. I think both sets of photos are pretty conclusive (and thanks to Brian Sullivan for his work with the photos, making details much easier to see).  The dark patagial bar, black crescents formed by the primary coverts, pale breast with contrasting dark-streaked belly band, plain rufous tail, and shape (especially as seen in the 2nd set of photos) all look consistent with an identification of RTHA to me (and since we’ve had a pair nesting in our yard every year for the past 12 years or so, I get to watch them flying in all sorts of wind/weather conditions on a daily basis, so I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp of how the apparent wing/tail shapes and proportions can change from minute-to-minute based on what the bird is doing).  As Alvaro and Gary have already mentioned, the only other real possibility to consider is Rufous-tailed Hawk (B. ventralis), but that species has a much bolder black trailing edge and tips to the underwing, and a more pallid tail, and as has already been pointed out, its non-migratory nature and the extent of the range disjunction would seem to make it a much less likely vagrant to northern South America.”


Comments from Pacheco: “YES. From the set of photos treated by Brian Sullivan, the details best seen now corroborate the identification as Red-tailed Hawk with a good margin of safety.”