Walking by a vacant lot around sunset, a great bird perched on a dead palm caught my attention. The distance and the fading light didn’t allow me to see more details, and after several seconds of squinting, the black coloring convinced me it was simply a vulture, and so I walked on.
The next morning I found myself walking past the same lot around sunrise, with the same dead palm, and presumably the same bird in the same position. Only this time, lit by the rising sun, what was shown to me was much more interesting.
It is a Black Hawk. I just haven´t made up my mind whether it is the Common variety (Buteogallus anthracites) or the Great (Buteogallus ubatinga). I´ve consulted several books and websites, compared various images and descriptions, and after all this effort I´ve simply given up. There were some details mentioned with regards to feathers and beaks, but the only thing these different sources agree upon is that the Great is indeed larger than the Common. And having only seen one, I have no way to judge what the other one is like, and so I have no idea which I enjoyed at dawn.
And I think that is the important thing, that I enjoyed it. The friend who introduced me to birding has told me before: don´t get so hung up on ID, just watch them, enjoy the moment. I think it is good advice.
I was also thinking of writing something on how appearances can be deceiving, and how the vulture at dusk turns into the hawk at dawn; on how we really shouldn’t trust our opinions so much; and how context, the light by which we see, changes everything…
But frankly, I don´t feel like lecturing anyone. Its Christmas, and I think the best we can do is just enjoy.
David Nuñez is a biologist, photographer and author of several books on the Wildlife of the Mexican Caribbean, as well as a founding member of Mexiconservación.