Sunday, January 22, 2017

Coop or sharpie?

These photos poise one of the hardest bird IDs in our area. Patricia Mayhugh sent them to me. She knew what it was, but do you? The fact that the raptor is hanging out near a birdfeeder indicates it's an Accipiter, since they eat other birds, but which one? Is it a Cooper's hawk or a sharp-shinned hawk

Cooper's hawks are roughly crow-sized and sharp-shinned hawks are blue-jay size but size is hard to judge in a photo or in the field unless you have something to compare it to.

So what field marking do you look for?

My friend Dr. Cheryl Greenacre at the UT Veterinary Teaching Hospital sees a lot of injured birds up close. She looks in the mouth. Inside a Cooper's is black, a sharp-shinned is pink. But we never see one that closely or that disabled.

Well, for us, we look at the end of the tail. Cooper's have a rounded tail that ends in a noticeable band of white. Sharpies have a blunt or squared-off tail with so little white it is hard to see. 

Therefore: these photos are of a Cooper's hawk!

Thanks, Patricia.

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