Oh, and speaking of ranting about nature »« Oh, no! Not Sweden, too!

Fake eagles don’t sound like that

A-lHXbXCAAAAxTg

Probably also faked: the sweater looks completely ‘shopped. Via Ed Lam.

I held forth on the fake eagle video thing at some length over here at KCET yesterday, but there was something I didn’t mention there that irked me about the hoax: in the recap part, where the “amazing footage” of the “eagle” “catching” the “child” gets “replayed” in slow “motion,” the filmmakers dubbed in a bit of sound effect right at the moment where CGI talon hit virtual toddler.

And of course it was a red-tailed hawk call. It always is, It doesn’t matter what bird of prey is in a film: the SFX guys will always dub in a red-tailed hawk call. 

Not that the red-tail sound was a dead giveaway: during the 45 minutes or so in which I was somewhat taken by the hoax in I was prepared to grant that perhaps the videographers just did a clumsy, misguided dubbing job, for much the same reason that nature YouTubers always seem to want a horrible music track to cover up their occasionally interesting footage. But it was the same kind of mistake as inflating a CGI osprey to eagle size and calling it a golden and expecting birders to believe it for a second.

In case you’ve never seen a bird of prey represented in video and have no idea what I’m talking about, here is a red-tailed hawk’s call:

By way of comparison, here’s what golden eagle vocalizations sound like:

Bald eagles have calls you might well mistake for a gull’s:

[Update: in comments, otrame offers a more characteristic adult bald eagle call.]

Almost without exception, the red-tailed hawk call is what the sound engineers will use. I do know of one such exception. In the 2010 remake of Clash Of The Titans, which I suspect most people here watched solely for the Kraken and the releasing thereof, there was a scene where Zeus and Perseus were having a difficult father-son moment. Perseus is recalcitrant, whereupon Zeus transforms himself into an eagle and flies away. And that eagle doesn’t “keeeer” — he peeps. Like a golden. Honestly, that one moment of verisimilitude was worth the preceding hour. I was impressed that they got that one detail right. Though the Kraken did disappoint.

Exemplary efforts like Clash Of The Titans aside, it seems like there’s a secret world law governing natural sounds in TV and film that requires all raptors sound like red-tailed hawks. All rats squeak incessantly. Horses whinny while chewing placidly. Tropical rainforests in Africa and South America always have kookaburras in them. And as soon as you start to pay attention to how things actually sound in the real world, that kind of mistake unsuspends your disbelief pretty damned quickly. It’s a bit like having a scene where John Wayne is leading a wagon train westward to Oklahoma City, and they pass the Tetons on the way.

It’s the natural world version of illiteracy, and it makes those of us who know a few things wince.

Comments

  1. ChasCPeterson says

    You said it.
    The other thing is the ubiquity of Pacific treefrogs at night, around the “world”.

  2. royhilbinger says

    I always wondered about that too. But then when you listen to that Red-tail scream, it really does seem to say “I’m coming for your ass!” Definitely an archetypal predator-in-action sound.

  3. Feline says

    There’s a TVTropes page for that. Several actually, but you know, I can’t index them all for you. You’ll need to do a wikiwalk to find them all, but do kiss your loved ones goodbye before you do.

  4. spamamander, internet amphibian says

    Chas beat me to it… living here in the PNW and hearing frog calls in movies and TV I had no idea that our peepers are the only ones who make the distinctive “ribbit” sound. There’s a creek out back and all summer you can hear the poor horny guys calling, and during the colder months some migrate under my house so occasionally there will be a lone little croaker beneath the floorboards.

  5. MissEla says

    /sarcasm on
    Thanks for the videos, Chris–now my parrot is upset because he can’t see the birdies that are calling to him!
    /sarcasm off

  6. robro says

    Thanks for the bird sounds, Chris. I wish I knew them better…I can tell the Great Horned Owls in Glen Park near us, and the Red Tails…but that’s mostly visual.

    Movies are mostly clichés. Most of us, including filmmakers, don’t know what natural things sound like. The audio people might know, but they aren’t paid the big bucks for verisimilitude, and don’t usually get to make final decisions anyway. That’s in the hands of producers and maybe an assistant director, and these folks are more interested in satisfying what they think an audience expects so they can make money.

    In any case, by the time you’re watching the movie and notice that error in detail, you’ve already bought your ticket. No one ever got a refund because a movie had a continuity issue, which most have…like the conning trails in the background sky in that John Wayne oater you mentioned. I once saw a Mexican movie (Oscar nominee) about a 16th century Spanish explorer shipped wrecked on the coast of Florida…with mountains in the distance. Florida mountains!? I don’t think so.

    And of course, a lot of movie/TV sound effects aren’t recordings of the real sounds anyway. Those Red Tail sounds you hear in the movies could be real, or something else entirely. It’s all fake, all the way down.

  7. otrame says

    I’ve lived in places where bald eagles are common. The peep you showed is what juveniles do when trying to convince Mom or Dad to give them a fish. This is a better example of an adult. They also have a high pitched “weep weep weep” call that I have heard. It’s pretty impressive when echoing around a bunch of mountains surrounding a lake they are fishing from. And when that lake falls off the edge of a relatively flat pass into an amazing waterfall that you’ve been climbing a switchback next to for a couple of hours the effect is even more impressive. Hell, the whole thing is just fantastic and the bald eagles calling just adds a little frosting. Sometimes I really miss Alaska.

    But you are right. People like the drama of the redtail.

  8. evilDoug says

    And all owls sound like great horned, all ducks sound like mallards, ravens caw and the English countryside is filled with male pheasants.
    The one that irritates me the most is the roaring-while-hunting bit. This seems to turn up, without fail, in animated and CGI animal stuff, and lots of fictional movies with real animals. I will allow that perhaps the Tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park was angry at the jeep or the lawyer.

    I think yellow headed blackbirds and American bittern calls would be good background sounds for creepy/sci-fi. I suspect the number of people that can identify those strange sounds is pretty small.

    “My” bluejays do a passable red tail imitation.

  9. says

    One of my favorites for this is the John Wayne/John Ford movie, The Searchers. It’s actually about the best acting JW ever does, but it’s pretty hard to take. He and Jeffrey Hunter supposedly search for years to find Wayne’s niece (Natalie Wood), kidnapped by the Comanche.

    And they never leave Monument Valley. Over and over again, the movie shows them wearily trudging by various buttes within a very small geographical area; often the same spots. Now, Monument Valley’s a pretty place; one of the most beautiful I’ve seen, and it’s pretty big, too. But not that big!

  10. stephencumberworth says

    The one that really bugs me (well, aside from the red-tail scream) is how just about every snake seen in a movie will sound like either a loudly hissing cobra or a buzzing rattlesnake, even when it’s doing nothing but slithering around.

  11. toro says

    The Laughing Kookaburra may be laughing at filmmaking humans who frequently uses its call for exotic ambience in “jungle” movies set in Africa, South America and elsewhere, when in reality it’s native to Australia and its near neighbors.

  12. says

    Another, and more recent (as in, I’ve only noticed it in movies that came out since about the 70s): when lightning strikes, we hear a scritch-scratchy-staticky sound when we see the flash, and then we hear the thunder. What the hell is that about?

  13. says

    I just watched the 1939 classic last week, and I m pretty sure that I can tell you that there are also Kookaburras in the Land of Oz.

  14. says

    Maybe there’s just a plague of lyrebirds EVERYWHERE, squeaking like rats, whinnying like horses, and…doing whatever kookaburras do. (Laughing, if memory serves.)

  15. toro says

    Why, they’ve got everything in that other Oz: Flying monkeys, talking trees, and just to upset the Fundies: Witches – even good ones.

  16. evilDoug says

    …What the hell is that about?
    Most movies are best watched with your brain turned off, or at least turned way down. Otherwise you’re likely to go away with another divot or 7 out of your image of humanity and its gullibility.
    I would like to find the first movie in which bullets make a shower of sparks when they hit. Like the lightning, I think it was probably sometime in the 70s. Ever noticed how everything that blows up in all but the most recent 007 movies does it in huge balls of orange flames and great clouds of black smoke? Nuclear something blows up – orange flame, black smoke. Probably just as well that that one can be put over on the general public.

    With regard to wildlife sounds, I fear matters will only get worse. Every time I go cycling or walking around the natural areas in the city, I am a little saddened by how many people I see with their ears crammed full of earphones. I very often hear wildlife well before I see it. (A couple of years ago I was walking along a very minimal path and heard a strange “clack clack clack” very close by. It was a great horned owl about 10 feet away on a branch just above head level, snapping its beak, I presume telling me to back off. They can make you bleed really badly if they feel so inclined.)

  17. katansi says

    I could listen to bird calls for ages. Except for most baby owl calls, those are nightmares via sound waves.

  18. Rumtopf says

    @20. Holms
    I sincerely wish I could xD. The entire thing is on Youtube but I watched it with Rifftrax to ease the pain.

  19. Muz says

    Yeah, that’s all nothin’ Australian birds show up everywhere except Australia a lot of the time.
    I’ve even heard Magpies on alien planets.

  20. kaleberg says

    Next time you watch a nature documentary set in the desert, don’t be surprised if you recognize the canonical lonely desert sound as the cry of the loon, a sea bird. It drives birders nuts.

  21. says

    So the Red-Tailed hawk call is the equivalent of the Wilhelm Scream? How funny is that. Do yourself a favor and watch “The Wilhelm Scream Compilation” on youtube.

    I would bet filmmakers use the sound of the Red-Tailed hawk because that is what most people expect when they see a raptor. Its a perfect example of verisimilitude. To the non-expert it sounds right, therefor it must be right. I know things like this must drive scientists crazy, but movies were never intended to be an accurate portrayal of anything, except that of a money making form of entertainment.

  22. jakc says

    @Paul K

    ” He and Jeffrey Hunter supposedly search for years to find Wayne’s niece (Natalie Wood), kidnapped by the Comanche. And they never leave Monument Valley. Over and over again, the movie shows them wearily trudging by various buttes within a very small geographical area; often the same spots.”

    Well of course they had to search for years. It’s very hard to find Comanches in Monument Valley as the Comanche were usually (at least) several hundred miles away.

  23. says

    evilDoug, 19:

    Before everyone wore earbuds, it was my experience that, at least in groups of two or more, people just could not shut up. I spent four summers in the 90s taking mostly inner-city kids on nature exploration trips of various kinds: nature walks, canoeing, camping. They also could not seem to be quiet and listen, until I would have them observe the ‘nature’ of other humans exploring nature. We would watch other groups for a while, and the kids realized how funny it was, in an ‘um, that’s not how to do it’ way.

  24. says

    jakc, 26:

    Yeah, another ‘fun’ fact. And the Comanche chief was portrayed by a blue-eyed actor from Berlin, born with the name Heinrich von Kleinbach. (Full disclosure: I knew about the blue eyes, but just found out the rest via the Internet. I am not that into this.)

    They did actually make it to the Goosenecks of the San Juan River, a short distance from Monument Valley. The first time I went to the Goosenecks, I looked down into the gorge and said, ‘Hey! John Wayne searched here, too!’

  25. Shiroferetto says

    Ferrets.
    They’ve gotten more popular in movies lately, and it drives me totally bananas that they always have to make some chittering Hollywood imaginary rat sounds (which are also always wrong). Ferrets are pretty quiet. They don’t generally run around making sounds UNLESS they’re playing and either “dooking,” “chuckling,” or screaming because someone is biting them on the face.

    They don’t chitter. They don’t sound like Hollywood. It makes my dead baby Jesus die all over again.

    Someone make a movie with silent ferrets… please…

  26. Crudely Wrott says

    The video was a class exercise and the kids did all right. Not perfect, but all thumbs up to them anyhow.

    Chris, about twenty years ago I was heading south out of Wyoming en route to Denver. Mike and I were driving a 55 Chevy that we recently rebuilt with the help of some local guys. The car was running like you read about. It was just about this time of year.

    ‘Long about Rawlins the snow started to fall. Heavy, fat flakes. No wind. We had to slow down to about forty miles an hour because of the limited visibility. It wasn’t really cold but the humidity was unusually high for the altitude and the air was a little foggy as well as full of flakes as big as your thumb.

    At some point while I was at the wheel, scanning the borrow pits on either side as I had become accustomed to do since hitting that damned deer that did nine hundred dollars worth of damage to my car, I spotted a fence post up ahead that was taller than all the rest. (That would be the barbed wire fences that flank most western highways, for you coastal dwellers.) Visibility dropped to less than a hundred yards and even that distance was full of a confusion of falling snow making it hard to keep sight of the roadway.

    I backed off the gas so as to get a closer look. Yes, a tall fencepost is sufficient cause to indulge curiosity while driving hundreds of miles on a snowy night. A smart driver does anything to promote attention and wakefulness for reasons of self preservation and as a courtesy for motorists passing in the opposite direction.

    Anyhow, as we drew abreast of the tall post its uppermost portion revealed itself to be a golden eagle. It was perched there with its head pulled down almost between its wings. Its feathers were plumped out and its entire visage was one of disgust and grudging acceptance. My immediate perception was that it was angrily enduring the no fly conditions that existed. It looked for all the world like I would look had I missed a connecting flight at some airport in Texas and had to wait until morning for the next plane out.

    Then, after looking back at the road and making a steering correction that probably saved the whole trip, I glanced back at the bird on the post, now just off my left shoulder. Oh, for a camera! On the ground, flanking the post on either side, were two more goldens. Each was as glum and resigned as the one above, sharing the unwelcome but resolute resolve to wait out the weather until morning brought a bit of light with clearer skies and a favorable headwind for takeoff.

    On the return trip the next day I checked the spot. I could find it because Mike had noticed a nearby mile marker as we passed the night before. The fence posts were all of uniform height and there was only one raptor in sight. A solitary redtail was patrolling for roadkill above the telephone wires that ran alongside the road, angling into the wind and banking with what can only be described as sheer delight.

    My memory of that moment when I saw all three eagles huddled under the lowering sky and the obscuring snow is at least as delightful. Perhaps someday I could retain an artist . . .

  27. says

    Yay, I’ve definitely noticed this. I’ve lived in places with red-tailed hawks (NC) and bald eagles (AK), and it always bothers me when people mix them up. Eagles make such cute little sounds considering how big they are, while red-tailed hawks sound so badass. Once, I was walking through campus with the boyfriend when we came across this beautiful red-tail. It was just hanging out in this tree, but the blue jays and the mockingbirds were all yelling at it and getting kind of close, so it started screaming at them. It was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. It sent chills right up my spine.

    Eric Tolladay #25: There’s a Wilhelm scream in The Hobbit. It’ happens while they’re in the goblin cave. I have to admit, I was kind of disappointed. Why would a goblin make that sound?

  28. rwgate says

    Is that picture at the top of the article supposed to be a hawk snatching a child? Photoshopped or not, that’s a butterfly. I didn’t know Monarch butterfly’s got that big.

  29. sheila says

    I get a similar problem with astronomy in movies. Young couples romantically watching Venus as the clock strikes midnight, or Orion in the middle of summer, or (by far the commonest) random stars spread out far too evenly. Gah!

  30. says

    Very interesting
    Living next to a zoo with a pretty big falconery I get to hear (and see) lots of birds from all over the world. Last summer my daughter volunteered to have the eagle buzzard land on her arm. Now that’s a big bird and she’s a very skinny child. I was mortally not afraid of her being eaten.

  31. colluvial says

    The red-tailed’s call isn’t just the stand-in for the voice of other raptors, it’s also the brief, accompanying soundtrack for an amazingly high percentage of movie wilderness scenes. No bird visuals required.

  32. littlejohn says

    All locomotives, even modern diesel-electrics, are dubbed with steam engine sounds. That was understandable in 1950, but not now.

  33. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    <But it was the same kind of mistake as inflating a CGI osprey to eagle size and calling it a golden and expecting birders to believe it for a second.

    It was not a CGI osprey – they are mostly pale underneath. The closest raptor I can find is the Imperial eagle of Europe and parts of Asia. It has the white splotch at the “wrist” of the wings.

  34. erikthebassist says

    No Chris, you are sadly mistaken. The bald eagle sounds exactly like the Red Tailed Hawk. Every night at 11:30 PM, Colbert sets you straight on this with his opening montage. How dare you contradict Colbert! He is the arbiter of truthiness!

  35. erikthebassist says

    I offer my apologies for my inconsistent use of capitalization. I appear to be a couple cups shy of a pot of coffee this morning.

  36. ChasCPeterson says

    Next time you watch a nature documentary set in the desert, don’t be surprised if you recognize the canonical lonely desert sound as the cry of the loon, a sea bird.

    uh
    wut

    a) loons aren’t seabirds
    b) ever heard a coyote? (listen here)

  37. Reginald Selkirk says

    The shadow of the bird was completely in the wrong place, compared to the shadow of the people.

  38. Didaktylos says

    Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves; where Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman travel from Dover to Nottingham via Hadrian’s Wall …

  39. says

    In English TV programs, one can often hear Tawny (Screech) owls, before a clip of a bemused Barn owl is inserted.

    Another one to look listen out for are modern English films or TV programs about England prior to the 1950s. You can often hear Collared doves, which first migrated to England in the mid fifties.

  40. sundiver says

    Paul K: John Ford shot so many movies in Monument Valley there’s even a John Ford Point there. Seems like every damn western either Monument Valley or the Grand Tetons are in the background. Chuck Jones based the backgrounds for the Roadrunner/Coyote cartoons on MV. Hell, Zemekis shot the “End of Running “scene in Forrest Gump just north of Monument Valley looking south along US 163. That place shows up EVERYFUCKINGWHERE. Wish I still lived around there…. Sigh. And I seem to recall the Moki Dugway showing up in some western, which is really weird since it wasn’t even there in the 19th century.

  41. freemage says

    Of course, all of this goes back to old-time radio shows using coconuts to simulate the sound of horse hooves pounding on the ground. Hell, people STILL think that’s what horses sound like (when it’s actually usually a much more softer and blunter thud, due to, you know, dirt). But the sound’s been ingrained in our heads.

    So does Ladyhawke get credit for using the right bird to match the call, at least?

  42. Sunday Afternoon says

    @erikthebassist:

    I knew, even before playing it, exactly what the Red Tailed Hawk would sound like thanks to Colbert!

  43. comfychair says

    TV/movie people know nothing about anything. As a ‘car guy’, I can tell you with authority that they do the same thing with car noises all the time, too. Shot of a car driving that was only ever available with a 4-cylinder, insert sound clip of some V-8 jalopy with a rusted-out muffler. And every car that accelerates vigorously gets the same old ‘tire squeal’ sound clip, even on dirt roads or when the street is wet.

    http://i47.tinypic.com/2kufq.jpg
    As to birds, can anybody ID this? I know it’s not a great shot, but considering in the original uncropped version it is little more than a tiny dark smudge, it could have been worse. I have seen them at lower altitude than this, but never got a pic other than this one.

  44. M, Supreme Anarch of the Queer Illuminati says

    Red-tailed hawks also have the advantage of being native in the area of Those Rocks. You know…the John Wayne rocks…a.k.a. the Captain Kirk rocks…a.k.a. 99% of dramatic rock formations other than Monument Valley, especially on other planets. (There are also red-tails somewhat north of there in Antelope Valley…a.k.a., of course, every desert/scrubland in every movie ever. Especially on alien planets.)

  45. Rey Fox says

    Well, the red-tail scream was during the slow-mo part with the Chariots of Fire music playing, so I really don’t think they had accuracy on their minds there.

    Funny that I don’t remember the eagle call in Clash of the Titans, must have been overwhelmed by the badness of the movie. I do remember that towards the end of Terrence Malick’s “New World”, they had a bald eagle with the correct squeaky wheel call. Apparently Malick is a birder.

    So does Ladyhawke get credit for using the right bird to match the call, at least?

    Sure, but it gets a point docked for using an American bird in an ostensibly European setting.

  46. says

    Boy, I didn’t even listen to the sound.

    Re: otrame 20 December 2012 at 10:09 pm (UTC -6)
    Thanks, I haven’t heard that call in a long, long time. Brings back fond memories of the river.

  47. tccc says

    The golden video and a comment above bring up an important pro-tip: Never throw any food or food leftovers (for example apple cores) out of your window when driving. Food on the side of the road attracts rodents and scavengers and raptors (to eat the rodents) and a lot of raptors and scavengers are killed because of their hanging out along the road.

  48. says

    comfychair, that is most likely a Turkey Vulture. The have grey feathers on the trailing side of their wing and are the most common.

    Where I like to hike there are some that nest, and there are few birds as large as them in the sky right now. Their yearlings take awhile to learn to fly, and are kinda fun to watch as they figure things out, often collecting together while adults prefer to spread out in the sky.

  49. comfychair says

    #52 & #57:
    Eh, turkey vulture… I’m not convinced. The white markings extend fore-aft on the wings, not along the trailing edge, the backlighting in the pic makes it look that way though. And whatever it is, it makes a hawk-like screech. I can’t find anything on youtube with vulture calls to compare to, but I don’t think that’s it. Also, they only show up in singles, not in groups like vultures (‘buzzards’, this is Mis’ippi, after all).

  50. george gonzalez says

    Yeah, sound effects folks tend to be a bit lazy. Anytime you see stock footage of a prop plane, whether it has 1, 2, 3, or 4 engines, they dub in some standard DC-3 in low RPM sounds. And if the plane engine conks out, that’s usually a standard gasp, and sputter and immediate out-of-control spin-wail too.

    Once in a while in the old radio shows the actors would make fun of the sound effects, saying things like “Wow it’s cold, good thing we have this crackling cellophane”.

  51. ChasCPeterson says

    “Wow it’s cold, good thing we have this crackling cellophane”.

    sounds like Firesign Theater to me.

  52. Rey Fox says

    comfychair: Could it be a red-shouldered hawk? They’re often identifiable by the white crescent that shows up near their wingtips when backlit. They’re also among the noisiest of raptors. Any other field marks you can remember?

  53. David Marjanović says

    The one that irritates me the most is the roaring-while-hunting bit. This seems to turn up, without fail, in animated and CGI animal stuff

    “Documentations” of anything prehistoric fail bigtime on this. Walking With Dinosaurs for instance: everything natters incessantly, interrupted only by frequent roars. *headdesk*

  54. Ichthyic says

    I was impressed that they got that one detail right. Though the Kraken did disappoint.

    wait…

    How would one know that a Kraken detail was wrong, exactly?

  55. terminus says

    I’ll never be able to watch Stephen Colbert again without thinking of this post – good call ericthebassist.

  56. says

    “Wow it’s cold, good thing we have this crackling cellophane”.

    sounds like Firesign Theater to me.

    NICK: It had been snowing in Santa Barbara ever since the top of the page and I had to shake the cornstarch off my mukluks as I lifted the heavy obsidian doorknocker. Hey in there… open up. Your doorknocker fell off.

    [...]

    CATHERWOOD: (door open) All right, come in out of the cornstarch and dry your mukluks by the
    fire. (fire/cellophane/door close) Let me introduce myself. I am Nick Danger.

    NICK: No, let me introduce myself. I am Nick Danger.

    CATHERWOOD: If you’re so smart, why don’t you pick up your cues faster?

    NICK: Are those my cues?

    CATHERWOOD: Yes, and they must be dry by now. Why don’t you pull them up out of the cellophane before they scorch. (stop cellophane) Heh. All right, sir, may I take your hat and goat? (baa)

    – Firesign Theater, The Firther Adventures of Nick Danger

  57. ronsullivan says

    From Joe, who didn’t have the patience to set up a new login because he’s making butter mochi:

    Roger Tory Peterson, circa 1948: “House finches, Gambel’s sparrows and wren-tits must be especially numerous around Hollywood, for I have distinctly heard them in a score of pictures. In fact, the known geographical range of the wren-tit has been greatly extended by the motion picture industry. Although it is almost exclusively a native son of California, scarcely crossing into Oregon and Baja California, I have heard its unmistakable staccato song in Wyoming, around Lake Champlain (in Northwest Passage), in the bluegrass country of Kentucky (I have forgotten the name of the picture), and even as far distant as the Vienna woods (in the Waltz King).”

    Personal favorite: northern mockingbird in the woods around a French chateau in Ridley Scott’s The Duellists (1977).

  58. evilDoug says

    Regarding pic of unknown bird
    The pale fringing probably has nothing whatever to do with feathers, and may simply be an artifact of lossey compression (JPEGerry-pokery, I calls it). Note the entire bird has a pale conformal halo. Such compression not only removes things that are there, it appears to add things that aren’t (one can argue they are there mathematically, but they ain’t eyeballically, at least on close inspection).
    This is exactly the same effect that the idiot Christopher Monckton used as «evidence» in his affidavit claiming Obama’s birth certificate is a fake.

    The bird does seem to have a somewhat unusually high ratio of wingspan to total body (including tail) length. This may help a little in narrowing the possibilities.

  59. ronsullivan says

    comfychair, #59 et alii: Best guess here, both of us consulting the new edition of Hawks in Flight, is broad-winged hawk, with a secondary possibility of red-shouldered.

    Everybody go buy this book. It’s a major improvement over the first edition, especially for us westerners. Dunne, Sibley, and Sutton, auth. We have used the hell out of it this season.

  60. evilDoug says

    … stock footage of a prop plane …

    And helicopters always chop. Maybe I’ve lead a sheltered life, but the only time I notice one chopping is when it is coming toward me (well, not me, exactly).

  61. ronsullivan says

    PS: Yeah, Rey Fox, redshoulders are noisy as, well, yer average fake predator. Which is part of why that ID is in the running.

  62. evilDoug says

    ronsullivan, thanks for the note on the book. As Chas noted, raptors can be pretty tough to identify from the underside. About the only good thing about high flight is that you often get lots of time to look for details, but backlight sure can make it tough to see much.

    Shape and dark wing tips seem right for a broadwing. They are pretty small – did we have info on size?

    Also, ron, now I know why there are house finches around here! I first saw them about 4 years ago, and now I sometimes have 20 or more at my feeder (they mingle with house sparrows, so it can be a bit hard to count who’s who from a distance). They don’t have much to say this time of year, but in the summer they tweetle on at great length, with seemingly random but pleasantly musical song (unlike the #!&!! house sparrows).

  63. comfychair says

    re: mystery bird…

    From other sightings where I was able to get a sense of scale, they are big – wingtip to tip of at least 4 feet. Wing markings of the red shouldered hawk looks pretty close.

    I also learned that cats really, really DO NOT LIKE listening to audio clips of hawk calls.