.... An online source for news & views of interest to members/friends of The Chapel Hill Bird Club
(photo of E. Towhee by Will Cook)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cooper's or Sharpie....?

One of our local birders has sent along some pics of a visitor to their backyard deck, and would like to resolve if it is a (immature) Cooper's or Sharp-shinned Hawk. It can of course be difficult to accurately adjudge size and precise features from photos, but 4 pics are below:

My own impression is that it is a Cooper's (and in my experience they are now FAR more common in residential areas than Sharpies locally, even though decades ago the reverse was true), but still curious for opinions with more expertise....


John Scavetto said...

The head on this bird seems to be rounded not block like. The pictures showing the streaking on the chest is dark and heavily marked. This also says Sharpie to me. The last thinks is the small skinny feet. I would call this bird a Sharp Shin Hawk. But pictures are subjective.

Jim George said...

I posted this response to the Carolinabirds listserv, but in case you did not see it there, I am re-posting here.


I am not a "raptor expert" by any strech of the imagination, but I
noticed that you do have a way of estimating size. It appears that
the decking material is 2x6 lumber (5 1/2 " actual width, but with the
gaps, we can call it about 6"). Thus the photo of the hawk on the
deck could be used to get a rough estimate at length which I would
guess to be around 18 inches. If so, according to the books I
consulted, that would be rather large for a Sharpie and a better fit for a Cooper's.

Jim George
Chapel Hill

Will Cook said...

Looks more like a Cooper's to me. The white band on the tip of the tail is fairly broad and the head is big and protrudes.

Rob G. said...

I like Jim's method for estimating the size, but would also caution that immature raptors can be notorious for appearing larger than they'll actually be once their streamlined adult plumage is in.

Thus far, including direct emails to me, there are 6 votes for COHA versus the one vote for SSHA -- but the blog had a record 250+ hits in the 24 hrs. since posting the quiz to CarolinaBirds! so a lot of folks aren't voicing a choice (not sure if they feel too uncertain, or feel it is a Cooper's and no further need to reiterate it???).
Anyway, thanks to all who've taken a look.

KestrelSwan said...

Sorry for my late response.

I am actually far more experienced with flying accipiters than perched (at hawk watches) but my vote is Sharpie. Small head, skinny legs and feet and what appears to be a squared tail all point to SSH.