I love your blog and have learned so much from it! Thanks, Kate in Massachusetts
Wow! I love the photo and the story. You can tell the bird is young not only by its "unique" hunting style but also by the vertical brown stripes on the chest and yellow eyes.
I'm glad you were able to capture the scene. This is exactly why I started the blog, as a place to share stories and information. Thank you for writing, Sarah
Is it a Cooper's Hawk? It's interesting because we saw this fellow for the week and then the Massachusetts Audubon sent its newsletter to me featuring a story about Cooper's Hawks at the feeders. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have known what he was! ~ Kate
I think you are right. It looks like a young Cooper's Hawk to me. Sharp-shinned (Accipiter striatus) and Cooper’s (Accipiter cooperii) hawks can be hard to Id from photographs. The birds have a lot of variation in plumage and size and there no single field marks that distinguishes one species from the other.
The following are ID tips from Project Feeder Watch for the Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper's Hawk:
1) The tail feathers of Sharp-shinned Hawks appear squared, whereas a Cooper's Hawks tail looks rounded.
2) Cooper's Hawks have a barrel shaped chest. Sharp-shinned Hawks are widest at the shoulder and get distinctly narrower down to the hips.
3) A Sharp-shinned Hawk's head looks small compared to the body, and a Cooper's Hawk's head looks large.
4) Cooper's Hawks are usually larger than Sharp-shinned Hawks.
5) A juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk has very thick, rufous stripes that extend down the lower belly while the Cooper's Hawk has very thin, dark vertical streaks that fade away on the lower belly.
6) Sharp-shinned have very thin toes and legs, compared to the Cooper's Hawk.
7) The color of the nape of an adult Cooper's Hawks is pale with a clear contrast to a dark cap. Juveniles of both species can show a pale nape, however.
More identification tips and challenges can be seen on Project Feeder Watch's Accipiter Photo Gallery page: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/AboutBirdsandFeeding/accipiterphoto.htm