An adult Buteo was found dead as a road-kill south of Sacramento, California, and was thought to represent the first state record of the eastern Red-shouldered Hawk (B. lineatus lineatus;). It is now a specimen in the Museum of Wildlife and Fisheries Biology (WFB 4816) at the University of California, Davis. We examined this specimen and found that many of its plumage characters differed from all other adult Red-shouldered Hawks examined, including nominate adults. Plumage markings and measurements were intermediate between Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis, ssp calurus) and Redshouldered Hawk (ssp elegans), leading us to hypothesize that the bird was a hybrid. However, mtDNA sequences and nuDNA microsatellites proved definitively that the bird was a Red-shouldered Hawk, most likely of eastern origin. This case illustrates that apparent hybrids or apparent vagrants could be individuals with anomalous phenotypes caused by rare genetic variation or novel epigenetic effects.
Clark, W. S., Galen, S. C., Hull, J. M., Mayo, M. A., & Witt, C. C. (2017). Contrasting molecular and morphological evidence for the identification of an anomalous Buteo: A cautionary tale for hybrid diagnosis. PeerJ, 2017(1). https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.2850