Sharp-Shinned Hawk or Cooper’s Hawk?

We have two bird feeders in the pergola and enjoy the daily chittering and alarm calls of lesser goldfinches, juncos, house and purple finches, and the dedicated mourning doves who pick up any spillage. But in the last few months, we’ve noticed these birds are being eaten by neighborhood hawks.

Just last week, the hawk pictured below flew through, on reconnaissance, before landing on a planter at the edge of the garden. It gives new meaning to the notion of bird feeding. But there are far more little birds than raptors in our neighborhood, and everybody’s gotta eat.

Sharp-Shinned or Cooper’s Hawk?

The photo is distorted, as it was taken through a screen door. This hawk appears slightly smaller in stature than the Cooper’s Hawks, which also keep an eye on their menu options in our garden. But the All About Birds resource on Sharp-Shinned Hawks indicates they are tricky to correctly identify.

One thing is for certain: there’s an eerie silence after a raptor has flown through the bower blossom and bougainvillea vines, even when we’re pretty sure the hawk left empty-talonned.

And then the urge to eat is too great, and our small-feathered friends return, trusting that tomorrow, the feeders will be refreshed and the two water baths will be freshly cleaned and filled.

Published by Mashabu

Earnest observer of our natural world.

One thought on “Sharp-Shinned Hawk or Cooper’s Hawk?

  1. Based on this, my guess is a Cooper’s hawk:

    Head size can also be a telling feature of these birds. The Cooper’s hawk has a more prominent head that is block-like and dome-shaped, while a sharp-shinned hawk has a smaller, more rounded head.

    Neck feathers are another key ID feature, although it is not always easy to get a look at the nape of a bird’s neck while out in the field. If you can, though, check the coloring. A sharp-shinned hawk will have the same dark grayish-blue feathers on both its head and neck, while a Cooper’s hawk’s neck feathers are lighter in color than its head feathers, The Spruce reports.

    If you see the hawk while perched or at rest, check out the tail feathers for another way to help tell these two look-alikes apart. The tail of a Cooper’s hawk is typically rounded, while a sharp-shinned hawk has tail feathers with a straight or flat edge, according to the Audubon Society.


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