On the off chance... mystery raptor in Andalusia

Good morning everyone from autumnal Switerland. As always, everything is changing here and we now have Hawfinches, Willow Tits, Goldcrests, and Crested Tits back in the garden. Recently, while in Andalusia, my partner and I spotted a raptor. I contacted the Spanish rarities committee and they can't confirm what we saw (which is just fine by us, of course). But I thought that someone here might like to hazard a guess? Here's the description I sent to the rarities committee (sorry if this is a long post...): My partner and I stayed at a friend’s house in Málaga province from September 17 to September 24. The house is situated on a promontory and overlooks a wide valley running approximately north–south down to Caleta (to the east of Torre del Mar) on the coast, and a shorter, steep sided valley running off it to the west (I can supply a map or point you to Google Maps if you wish). During the week, in terms of large birds, we spotted a Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo), Red Kites (Milvus milvus), Black Kites (Milvus migrans), Booted Eagles (Aquila pennata) (mainly pale morphs), Short-toed Eagles (Circaetus gallicus), Sparrowhawks (Accipiter nissus), White Storks (Ciconia ciconia), and one of what seemed to be a resident pair of Eurasian Eagle-Owls (Bubo bubo) (seen and heard). Almost every raptor we saw that was “on the move” west(ish) passed us on an east-south-easterly wind. So we could pretty much feel the wind, look at the sky, and within minutes (sometimes seconds) watch them arriving across the larger north–south valley. No east wind meant no raptors (except what appeared to be resident Common Kestrels). One evening, slightly after sunset, we had just been watching two White Storks fly over the house when—looking out to the south-west we saw two large raptors approaching against the sky. Our first impression was that these were large birds, and both showed very obvious “brooms” at the wing tip, which had us thinking they were eagles; wings were slightly raised while gliding. They both went into a flat(ish) glide over the smaller, east–west valley, one passing out of sight on the other side of the next promontory south, the second entering the valley allowing us to observe it against land rather than sky. For size comparison, we had previously viewed Short-toed Eagles, Booted Eagles, Black Kites, and the Eurasian Eagle-Owl in the same context. Viewing distance ca 900m, with Swarovski ELs (8x32 and 8.5x42, respectively). The bird landed slightly clumsily in a tall shrub/bush, stayed there for a few seconds, then took off and flew up the valley to the west, before apparently deciding that this was a dead end (the valley walls are steep). It then turned and flew backdown the valley to the east, rounding the promontory and moving off to the west, out of sight. Total viewing time ca 2.5 minutes. The bird had a decent wingspan of around 180cm; wings were broad (front to back). While perched, the bird appeared to sit upright and be predominantly milk-chocolate brown (which we took, given the light conditions to be, perhaps, slightly rufous… a rich brown, at least). In flight, we saw more of the upper parts of the bird than the under parts. Under the wings, pale splashes seen briefly. Upper parts: head and “shoulders” rich, milk-chocolate brown; trailing edge of the wing a wide black band; between, a distinct white line running right across the wing from the body and ending at the black primary feathers (we talked to each other during the sighting and noted that the upper parts were obviously tri-coloured); distinct “fingers” (uncounted); large tail predominantly dark (black?) with a noticeable white base. The impression of size was something we probably interpreted from the wing beats, as the bird probably wasn’t bigger than a Short-toed Eagle (a bird with which we are very familiar).
  • Too much to read too long all running into one long paragraph, sorry


  • In reply to Jeremy R:

    Yes. Sorry about that Jeremy. I've had formatting issues on these forums for quite a while. But I can't see how a description of a bird we had never seen before can be shorter. In fact, it was too short for the rarities committee (i.e. not enough detail). There we go.

  • In reply to Dave - CH:

    I wonder if it may be a juvenile of "something" which would give you the white band across the upper side from body to wing tip as these feathers are usually white tipped in juvs. Sorry not much more help.

    Best wishes

    Hazel in the Gironde estuary, France

  • In reply to Noisette:

    Not at all Noisette. That's very helpful, thank you. We had opted for a juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagle, which was close the top of the list for the Spanish rarities committee too. But we were just 20 minutes from the south coast, and thought that bird would be both rare, and way out of its usual range...

  • In reply to Dave - CH:

    Hi Dave

    Well I read it right through and found it quite interesting. Re the paragraph problem. You should just be able to hit the "Enter" key to start a new paragraph. I don't know why that wouldn't work unless there's something quirky about keyboards in Switzerland.

    If the Spanish rarities committee can't ID the bird for you I'm not sure anyone here is going to be able to help.

    About the only eagle you haven't mentioned is Bonelli's Eagle. They are resident in Spain but quite scarce and I'm not sure it has any of the characteristics you describe. I've only seen one once in Extremadura so I'm no expert.

    You've probably seen more Booted Eagles than I have but are you sure it wasn't one. Mostly when we see them it's from beneath and they are fairly easy to identify. However, when viewed from above they can look very different. I did a search on Flickr and found this IMAGE (not mine)

    It seems to have some of the features you observed including the white line across the wing and the banding and even a bit of a white rump. Probably off the mark but just a thought.

    One of these days you'll probably give us an easier challenge. 



    My Flickr Photostream 

  • In reply to TeeJay:

    Hi TeeJay, nice to hear from you.

    I've tried all sorts to sort the formatting issue. Here we're in rich text (but that hasn't helped previously...) (and has already dropped the tags of this paragraph...) Bonelli's was also mentioned in the e-mails I exchanged with Spain, as were some other birds. But that Booted Eagle image (thank you) is very, very interesting indeed, and does show several of the features I tried to describe, you're right. You know (I'm sure you know), I only ever ask, and never expect a definitive answer. I just can't find a similar forum over here, and---in general---"you guys" are all so nice.
  • In reply to Dave - CH:

    And now


    I can write

    in paragraphs?

  • In reply to Dave - CH:

    Hello Dave from me up at the very very top of Scotland, in the county of Caithness. The last county at the top in Scotland. Sorry I have no info regarding the bird, but I am glad you are sorted and






    Enjoy being on here, any photos would be lovely to see.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  • In reply to Catlady:

    Thank you Catlady. I found that if I type my answer and then select 'Use rich formatting', it 'paragraphs itself', even if I still can't apply italics, bold, etc.


    Long way away.

    No photo reflex yet (although we have started to record things we haven't heard before).