“B” is for Bobwhite and Buteo: “B” Birds, Part 2

“B” is for Bobwhite and Buteo: “B” Birds, Part  2

James J. S. Johnson

Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) ©StateSymbols

Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) ©StateSymbols

BOBWHITE QUAIL (Colinus virginianus)

In this series the “B” birds began (in Part 1) with Bluebird and Bittern. 

In this Part 2 the “B” birds will continue with Bobwhite Quail and Buteo Hawks.

Now for Bobwhite, i.e., the Bobwhite Quail — and the relevance of 1st Samuel 26:20 will be noted below.

Bobwhite is the name of a bird belonging to the New World quail family.  Other members of that quail family include the Yucatan (Black-throated) Bobwhite, the Crested Bobwhite, and the Spot-bellied Bobwhite.

Northern Bobwhite

The Bobwhite Quail (Colinus virginianus), a/k/a Northern Bobwhite and Virginia Quail, is a “New World quail”, meaning that it belongs to the group of pheasant/grouse/partridge/quail-like ground-fowl that habituate parts of North America.  In particular, the Northern Bobwhite is the only small native galliform (i.e., chicken-like ground-fowl) in the eastern region of North America.

The name “bobwhite” is supposed to represent this quail’s terse two-syllable whistle-call.  The Bobwhite’s call has a lower (and slower) first syllable, followed by a sharply projected (and quicker) “whhht”.  One variety of the Northern Bobwhite, known for habituating Virginia, was formerly called the “Virginia Partridge” (e.g., by ornithologist John James Audubon) – that local variety now being called Colinus virginianus virginianus (identified by Linnaeus in AD1758).

Virginia Partridge (under attack by diving hawk) depicted by John James Audubon (Public Domain)

Virginia Partridge (under attack by diving hawk) depicted by John James Audubon (Public Domain)

Bobwhite Quail, a/k/a Virginia Quail (and a/k/a Northern Bobwhite), are quail.  Accordingly, it is unsurprising to learn that they hybridize with other quail – reports indicate successful hybridizations with Blue Quail (Coturnix adansonii), Gambel’s Quail (Callipepla gambelii), California Quail (Callipepla californica), and Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus).

The ground-fowl lifestyle of this grouse-like ground-fowl is comparable to the Rock Partridge (Alectoris graeca) of which Israel’s king David once wrote:

Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of the Lord: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains.  (1st Samuel 26:20).

(See “Rock Partridges: Lessons about Hunting and Hatching”, citing 1st Samuel 26:20).

Now for the last category of “B” birds, the Buteo hawks. 

So what are the most prominent characteristics of buteo hawks?  Describing the birds of prey we call Buteo Hawks (a/k/a “buzzard hawks”), Roger Tory Peterson says:  “Large, thick-set hawks, with broad wings and wide, rounded tails.  Buteos habitually soar high in wide circles”, taking advantage of thermal air currents to lift their heavy bodies. [See Roger Tory Peterson, A FIELD GUIDE TO WESTERN BIRDS (Houghton Mifflin, 3rd ed., 1990), page 174.]  The different sexes often look similar, yet the female buteo is typically larger than her male counterpart.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Daves BirdingPix

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Daves BirdingPix

Buteo hawks, as a category or raptors, are routinely contrasted with the Accipiter hawks (a/k/a “bird hawks”) that were described in the previous article on A” birds (see “A” for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Birds, Part 2, featuring Cooper’s hawk as the representative accipiter).  Hawk-like raptor birds include kites, falcons (including kestrels), harriers, eagles, Old World buzzards, vultures, osprey, and the exotic Secretary Bird.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) ©WikiC

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) ©WikiC

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo, of Eurasia)

The paradigmatic buteo, in Europe, would be the Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo).  However, that hawk has non-artificial range in the Western Hemisphere, so the Common Buzzard is not “common” to American birders.  Besides the Common Buzzard, there are many buteo hawks around the world, such as the Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis), Grey Hawk (Buteo plagiatus), Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni), Eastern Buzzard (Buteo japonicas), Himalayan Buzzard (Buteo burmanicus), Cape Verde Buzzard (Buteo bannermani), Short-tailed Hawk (Buteo brachyurus), and many more. For this article, however, to represent the entire group of buteos, one buteo will be reviewed, the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) of North America.

RED-TAILED HAWK  (Buteo jamaicensis).

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) ©WikiC

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) ©WikiC

The Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is described by ornithologist Mary Taylor Gray as follows: “The most abundant, widespread, and familiar hawk of he West, the Red-tailed Hawk resides year-round in Colorado [and elsewhere].  Adult birds are readily identified by their rusty-red tail[s].  Dark bars along the undersides of the leading edge of the outstretched wings, near the shoulder, are also characteristic.  We often see redtails perched on power [utility] poles or soaring in the air on broad wings, carving slow, wide arcs.  The redtail’s dramatic call fits its image as a western icon.  The down-slurred scream—Keeeer!—is often heard as a background sound in movies and television shows.”  [Quoting Mary Taylor Gray, THE GUIDE TO COLORADO BIRDS (Englewood, Colorado: Westcliffe Publishers, 1998), page 66.]

Gray’s observation – that the Red-tailed Hawk is the common buteo of America’s Great West – is illustrated by my own birding experience, even 20 years ago! – having seen redtails during AD1996 in places as divergent as Montana (eastern side of Glacier National Park, July 2nd AD1996) and South Texas (Rockport-Fulton shoreline, Aransas Bay region, March 10th AD1996).

Bee-eaters From Pinterest

Bee-eaters From Pinterest

Of course, other “B” birds (such as the colorful and gregarious bee-eaters, shown above – photograph taken from Lee Dusing’s “Fellowship”,  exhibit our alphabet’s second letter – but this article is already long enough.  God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be some “C“ birds – such as Cardinal, Chicken, Coot, Cormorant, Chickadee, Caracara, Crane, Cuckoo, Curlew, and Corvid (including Crow)!  So stay tuned!    > JJSJ

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“B” is for Bluebird and Bittern: “B” Birds, Part 1

“A” is for Avocet, Albatross: “A” Birds, Part 1

“A” is for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Birds, Part 2

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Birds of the Bible – Buzzards

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus) by Nikhil Devasar

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus) by Nikhil Devasar

But these you shall not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, (Deuteronomy 14:12 NKJV)

In Birds of the Bible – How Many Are There? II, the buzzard was mentioned. Also last week, Ian did an article on the Black-breasted Buzzard. Since realizing that this bird, the Buzzard, had not been added to the Birds of the Bible pages, I added a Buzzard and this is the first article about our forgotten avian bird.

Aren’t we glad that the Lord does not forget His Creation?

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26 NKJV)

Buzzards belong to the  Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks & Eagles Family and has 28 species in this family with “Buzzard” in their name. Members of this family are known as “Birds of Prey” or “raptors” by many.

Grey-faced Buzzard (Butastur indicus) by Peter Ericsson

Grey-faced Buzzard (Butastur indicus) by Peter Ericsson

From Britannica “True buzzards, or buteos, constitute the subfamily Buteoninae of the family Accipitridae. When in flight, they can usually be distinguished from other birds of prey by their broad wings and expansive rounded tails. They fly with slow heavy wing beats and soar gracefully. The plumage of most species is essentially dark brown above and white or mottled brown below, and the tail and underside of the wings usually are barred. There is much variability of pigmentation, however, even between individuals of a single species. Buzzards customarily prey on insects and small mammals and only occasionally attack birds. The nest, in a tree or on a cliff, is substantial, built of sticks and lined with softer materials. The two to five whitish eggs are blotched with brown.”

One of several medium-sized, wide-ranging raptors with a robust body and broad wings. In particular, those in the genus Buteo. In the Old World, members of this genus are named as “buzzards”, but “hawk” is more common in North America.

In Europe, the Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo, where Buzzard is often used as a synonym. The Common Buzzard is the most known buzzard in the Old World.

In the New World Buzzard can mean:

  • A vulture, particularly the American Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture, or as a general term for vultures.
  • In parts of the United States where they are considered pest, particularly in rural areas, a derogatory term for certain birds of prey, such as the Chickenhawk (a common colloquial name referring to either the Cooper’s Hawk, the Sharp-shinned Hawk or the Red-tailed Hawk), or the Duck hawk (known elsewhere as the Peregrine Falcon).

Quotes from Britannica and Wikipedia with editing.

Another Bible verse with “buzzard” is in Leviticus:

And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, (Leviticus 11:13 NKJV)

Both verses, Leviticus 11:13 and Deuteronomy 14:12 are listed in the birds not to be eaten by the Israelites. Considering what they eat, I am in no hurry to eat them either.

 

See:

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