Some months ago, the subspecies abietciola for the Red-tailed Hawk, often called the Northern or Canadian Red-tailed Hawk, was removed from iNaturalist and all sightings identified as the subspecies has been replaced with simply “Red-tailed Hawk”. The main reason for this change was because the Clements Checklist doesn’t recognize it. The Clements/eBird Intergraded Checklist lists the subspecies as a form. I created a journal post in response to iNaturalist’s descision to remove the subspecies and how any taxonomic action at this point of time is premature. I would encourage you to read it before continuing on here.
I did say in the post however that rufous/dark morph abieticola has been hypothesized. Well, I happened to be scrolling through some top-rated photos of the subspecies on eBird and found this. An “abieticola” dark morph, identified by a raptor banding station and a knowledgeable, well-known birder. It’s not the only one either. A couple more examples.
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/42447861 – Note: Raptor expert reported it.
And Brian Wheeler, the biggest activist per say in denying a northern race of Red-tailed stats in his book Bird of Prey of the West, he stats “Color Morphs: None in these 2 subspecies [borealis and kriderii]”
I’m still trying to work out how to identify dark morph calurus and abieticola but I do see comparing photos is that abieticola has a broader subterminal band that is nearly a terminal band, more maroon-rufous breast instead of tawny-rufous, and when viewed in flight from below, tails almost look harlani as in this individual.
Now it’s discussion time. What are your thoughts on this topic? Should abieticola be reinstated as a subspecies on iNat and we deviate from Clements? Or would you rather wait for more life history?