The Hawk In Your Yard

Identifying the Hawk In Your Backyard
Identifying birds of prey can be a challenge, and the two most challenging raptors are the Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk. Nearly identical in markings, range and behavior, these accipiters are closely related and can be difficult for even experienced birders to tell apart.

Sharp-shinned Hawk            Cooper’s Hawk

 

 

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Size

10-14″ – Jay/Dove

15-20″ – Crow

Proportions

Wide Shoulders, Narrow Hips

Barrel-Shaped

Head

Small

Large, Faint Crest

Nape

Same as Back/Head

Paler Color

Neck

Short

Long

Barring

Thick Rufous

Brown or Rufous, Less on Lower Abdomen

Legs

Very Thin

Finger-Width

Tail

Squared Tip, Notched

Rounded Tip, White Terminal Band

Flight

Wing Wrists Pushed Forward

Wings Straight

Prey

Small Birds

Medium-Large Birds, Small Mammals

These two birds are so similar that a female Cooper’s Hawk is relative to the size of a male Sharp-shinned Hawk making identification even more difficult. Although it may not be pleasant to watch one of these hunters take a bird from your backyard, it is part of the natural web of life. I personally find it fascinating to watch this predator / prey relationship unfold before my eyes no matter how difficult it may be for some folks to accept. One thing to keep in mind. These and other birds of prey take only what they need to survive. In comparison the 120 million free roaming feral house cats account for more than 500 million bird kills every year in the United States. The bacteria alone from a single puncture wound by cat is fatal for a bird.

 

Leave a Reply