Red-tailed Hawk Showing Off Its “Britches”

Hawk “britches” has become a term of endearment here on Feathered Photography.

Blog follower Elephant’s Child was the first to use it here several years ago (I believe she applied it to a Rough-legged Hawk that first time) and the term was so colorful and descriptive it has stuck with many of the rest of us. What we’re referring to is the upper leg feathers of hawks which we find so distinctive and appealing (when we can see them clearly, which we often can’t).


1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 320, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 220mm, not baited, set up or called in

Sometimes we also refer to them as “pantaloons” (another gift from Elephant’s Child) but technically they’re called the “crural feathers” and they cover the tibial portion of the leg and are continuous with those of the abdomen. Typically that portion of the leg is held so tightly against the body that the crural feathers are largely indistinguishable from those of the lower abdomen but in certain poses like this one they really stand out. I think they look great and in some raptor species they extend all the way to the foot.

But don’t expect me to call them crural feathers very often. For me (and I suspect for many of my readers) they’ll always primarily be britches or pantaloons. It just works…

Thanks for that, EC!


PS – For those who like to know such things (as I do) this bird is one of the three recent fledglings from what I call the cliff nest that I’ve been following much of the summer. The photo was taken on 7/4/17 and if I remember correctly it was taking off to go do another “pipe dance“.

PSS – Some readers may be relatively unfamiliar with Elephant’s Child even though she comments here reliably. EC is from Australia (or Oz as she calls it) and I believe her 6 AM (when she typically comments) is my 2 PM here on Mountain Standard time. So she’s usually one of the last to comment.



34 comments to Red-tailed Hawk Showing Off Its “Britches”

  • A quick one. It seems I am a suxpected spambot. If you get a chance can you approve my response to Laura.

    • Done, EC.

      For some reason (and it’s driving me nuts) since I moved to a new server recently I no longer get most email notifications of comments (I get a few but not very many and that makes absolutely no sense). So I’m also not getting email notifications of comments that aren’t automatically approved (as yours should be). The only way I now know a comment has been made is if I actually go to the post.

      We’ve tried multiple ways of fixing it but without any success so far. I HATE this kind of thing!

  • Ooooh. Lichen, A glorious bird, britches/pantaloons and kind words.
    What a lovely start to my day (and yes it is just after six here).
    As always a huge thank you to you and your generous commentators. I did know there had to be a special term but if I ever knew it, it escaped me. And will probably continue to do so.

  • Joanne OBrien

    I really like the different perspective in this photo – it explains the bird’s anatomy so well. And of course gotta love those pantaloons!

  • Patty Chadwick

    Wonderful link re: those “other eagles”…will hope for a link as good for the “real” eagles, the goldens…..

  • Patty Chadwick

    Ellie Baby rules…for me, they’ll always be “britches”…maybe Pantaloons” ocassionally…cural feathers, never! (Sound like medicine!)….

  • Laura Culley

    It’s always a delight to read EC’s comments! She ROCKS!
    The concept of “britches” and “pantaloons” also cropped up (use of arcane and ancient falconry term unintentional) on the Cornell redtail hawk cam beginning in 2012, so it’s obviously a perfect descriptor of those crural feathers. I think my favorite feathers are the under-tail coverts (along with all the other redtail hawk feathers…LOL!). They’re so elegantly floofy–just exquisite. Then, there are the over-tail coverts. I love those because so very few people get to see them–they’re private feathers that goes along with the privilege that they share their life with the falconer. And oh, all the other feathers! Right now, the floor of the mews looks like there was a major pillow fight in there. Plus, I nearly have a do-it-yourself, build-a-redtail kit (LOL!). Mariah dropped three tail feathers in the last two days and I’ve almost got another full set of wing/flight feathers. Each one of those feathers, both flight and body feathers, are spectacularly unique in their own right. Each is different, performing a different job, and each blending together to create such raw beauty!
    And just YAY! You know you have my heart with a baby redtail. Then add in the lichen and rocks, along with a terrific takeoff shot with that outrageous intensity of their gaze and I just melt! Awwwwww! There’s just something special about redtails! We in the U.S. are so darn lucky to have them here!
    Thank you for another lovely morning! Added to this morning’s spectacular sunrise, I’m a happy girl!

    • I agree with you about the coverts on both sides of the tail, Laura.

      Last winter I got a photo (front view) of a Peregrine Falcon doing a wing and tail stretch. Toward the end of the stretch its wings were mostly out and then, just for an instant, it raised its primary wing coverts away from the rest of the wing which separated them dramatically from the wing itself. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that pose/feather position in a raptor and it intrigues me.

      But I was bummed that the image isn’t particularly sharp…

      • Laura Culley

        There is a spectacular magic (seriously, the only word I can find to describe it) with raptors (and birds in general), isn’t there? Yes, I know I’m preaching to the choir, but seriously, it MUST be said in the context of Alice Walker’s idea in “The Color Purple” when she writes (rough quote), “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple and don’t notice it.” Expand that idea beyond just the color purple and you get the idea. I’m continuously scraping my jaw up off the ground when I’m hanging around in The Great Out There!
        One of the many joys of my life is to pick up a molted feather and ponder its beauty–the strength of the flight feathers, the delicacy of the body feathers and intricacy of the coloring, the shape and the diversity. I’ve been doing that for the last 24 years with Mariah (along with Jack, Skye AKA The Evil Princess and the other birds I’ve worked with over the years) and it just never gets old–never, ever! They always delight my soul. And you know my aversion to the never and always words, but this is serious stuff 😉

        Since I’m hopelessly inadequate with photography, I’m also continuously delighted to read your blog every morning. You and Mia bring me great joy, capturing that slice of a nanosecond so we can study, investigate and ponder all the details before they change into another slice of time. With all that’s going on in our world right now, moments of joy are precious! We must take the time to bathe in that fleeting glory and gather up all the beauty we can get. Otherwise, well, I’m not going to go there! I weep for the woman you found yesterday who has no idea what she’s missing and the missed opportunity to share that magic with her children. I weep for her children because of that missed opportunity. I hope they find the magic before their lives are finished.

        Sorry to be so wordy, but with most of the house sorted out, I’m getting more time and energy to write. When that creativity thing is unleashed, well, I can’t be held responsible for my actions! That muse thing has me in her grip.

        • Most definitely magic. The little things are HUGE in my world and I am endlessly grateful. And appreciative. And mourn for those who cannot see, revel and dance in it.

      • Marty K

        Ooooh! Sharp or not, I’d love to see that image! 🙂

    • Genesowl

      I prefer the term crural myself , as I am a fanatic on accurate terms , as Culley can attest .
      With my recent work and never ending love of owls , I have come to appreciate the softness and the strength of feathers and appreciate all that they endure , to make a birds life work for them .

      • Laura Culley

        Hey Gene! How’s things in Cornell land? Hope you’re well and hearty! I’ve missed you all a lot and I promise to resurface into the (FB) land of the living soon.

        • Genesowl

          Laura , doing good , minus the fact that I’m wore a bit . Owls are tough work . I’ve removed my following or videoing anything to do with Cornell . Lots of politics and all , that I can not condone .
          See ya soon at what ever you do on line . Have a great day .

  • Shirley

    Thank you Ron & EC, I like Britches or Pantaloons, suits me fine! In the Cat Fancy we use Britches, socks, mittens etc. so why not Birds? Ron, a week ago I got some Eagle photos which I would say are juveniles but not sure if they are Bald or Golden. There is no appearance of mottling of the body feathers so would you know who I might be able to send these pictures to for identification? One of these Eagles is very dark & the other is a lighter brown, both sitting in the same tree.

  • Marty K

    Yay for EC! And yay for Ron’s shots of pantaloons! 🙂 Love seeing a different view of one of my favorite raptor poses.

  • I’m fond of britches. 🙂 It comes from the word breeches.

  • Susan Stone

    Britches and pantaloons are easy words to remember; crural feathers, not so much (actually not at all, most likely). EC always seems to have the right words for any situation, at least here at Feathered Photography. This photo is a beautiful portrait of a gorgeous youngster. Am I seeing the alula on the left wing?

    • “Am I seeing the alula on the left wing?”

      No, I don’t think so, Susan. It’s too close to the body of the bird and what we see here is on the underside rather than the leading edge of the wing.

  • Diane Bricmont

    EC will be delighted with this one! The lichen really complements the britches. 😊

  • Brian

    They look like “high-water” britches to me.

  • Judy Gusick

    Beautiful shot, Ron and “britches” is the perfect term to describe the Crural Feathers which I will never remember! 🙂 Good call EC…..:)