About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sharp-shinned vs Cooper’s Hawks

A sharp-shinned hawk?  I heard an odd noise and looked outside - he's maybe four feet from the window and looks quite cozy.  We get Cooper's hawks from time to time, but never this close to the house. ~ Kate from East Lansing, MI

They are indeed excellent photos of a Sharp-shinned Hawk! The heavier streaking down the belly and square tail with a notch in the center make me believe he’s a sharpie.

Sharp-shinned (Accipiter striatus) and Cooper’s (Accipiter cooperii) hawks can be hard to ID. The birds have a lot of variation in plumage and size and there is no single field mark that distinguishes one species from the other.

Sharp-shinned Hawks average 10-14" long. Females are larger and can appear nearly as large as a male Cooper's Hawk. Where Cooper's Hawks average 14-20" long and males are smaller and can appear nearly as small as a female Sharp-shinned Hawk.

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 with a notch in the center, 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

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1 comment:

Kate/Massachusetts said...

Great photos! What a beauty he is!