Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sharp-shinned vs Cooper's Hawks

Last March I wrote about a hawk that visited my feeders. Here is the photo I took at the time:

I'd labeled the bird a Sharp-shinned Hawk, because I thought the tail had 'sharp' corners. (keep in mind, I'd been bird-watching a month.)

Today, I'd say this is a Cooper's Hawk, based on several things. One, the tail has a white edge and a 'rounded' appearance rather than sort of straight across the edge, like a Sharp-shinned would have.

Also, while this bird is obviously young (as evidenced by the white blotching on the back and the white line above the yellow eye), it has a lighter nape; giving it a 'capped' look. The Sharpie has a more 'hooded' look and a darker back-of-the-head and without that line where the darker coloring of the back begins below the nape...like this Cooper's has.

All this intersts me because I saw another hawk in my yard the other day. At fast glance, it was the spitting image of the bird above (I didn't get a picture), however...this was the smallest hawk I'd ever seen. Truely, it wasn't any bigger than an American Robin! Such a small raptor!

I found a photograph showing just how small the Sharp-shinned Hawk can be! This photo is by Adam Paul, who's blog includes a story about the bird. Click his name! So, the bird is leaning forward instead of up tall...but still; like a robin, I tell ya.

Can you just see the difference in size? The bird on the top is sitting on a pole that is about 3" in diameter...or a little larger than my fist. Now, look at this tiny little guy! WOW

I went looking for more comparisons to size and found this neat composition shot by Brian Oyer and posted on the Audubon site here. This just strikes me as a good way to see the difference a few inches makes. (no snickering!)

Okay, since female hawks are larger; a female Sharpie can be about the same size as a male Cooper's Hawk...so you do need to learn more about how to tell these birds apart. Here is a really, really good link to Cornell's Project Feeder Watch page about Tricky IDs, these two birds specifically. There is some awesome information there, as well as several photographs, including one by my blogging-buddy Seth Reams. Okay, I've never met Seth or his lady Michelle, but I'm an avid follower of their blog: Portland Oregon Backyard Birds; we exchange thoughts now and then...I consider 'em both pals! What a treat to find his photograph on Cornell!

Again, if you're having trouble (and who hasn't) with these two birds, check out that Cornell page; or this one on distinguishing the younger and adult Accipiters; it's excellent.


dAwN said...

Thanks for all that good info. I still have a long ways to go when it comes to hawk id, so it is good to read sites like yours to drill the info into my brain....
Happy Holidays.

Bosque Bill said...

Beverly, you should be proud of how far you've come in your birding skills in a short time.

I almost had a companion shot for you showing the relative size of a Downey and Hairy woodpecker for you, but couldn't get the camera out in time.

Beverly said...

Thank you dAwN... I realize my 'research' is pretty dry, but it's how I learn...reading a bunch and then writing a 'report' of sorts. I enjoy it, anyway...so it's sweet to hear when someone else does too.

Bill...that shot of the Cooper's was taken last February 2nd...one of my first bird pics! LOL AND posted as the second post on my new blog! But thank you...

I was so taken by a little Sharpie that I saw at my feeders the other day; I had to go look up that photo because I had labeled it as a Sharp-shinned Hawk. Now I know that, clearly it is not.

dAwN...as I said, this is how I learn too; I read a LOT of bird blogs and have come to realize learning to ID birds is a process.

Happy Holidays to you BOTH! :)

RuthieJ said...

I have both of those hawks visit my backyard once in a while, but the Cooper's comes more frequently. They are lovely birds.

Beverly said...

Ruthie, yes...they are beautiful birds. We had the chance to watch another Sharpie from my kitchen window on our CBC Saturday. The little bugger was enjoying a meal he no doubt plucked from the feeders in my yard! LOL I really don't mind...natural feeding is always a good thing. Besides, that was the first time I've 'seen' the bird be successful! All is good...