[CT Birds] Accipiter ID quiz - Answer

Joseph Cala joseph.e.cala at gmail.com
Sun Jul 20 19:47:06 EDT 2014


Only received a few responses (and see a few more on the forum) but
hopefully more of you were able to take a look at the pictures and
formulate an ID.

I specifically picked this bird because it represents probably the most
mis-ID'd hawk there is out there.  The whole accipiter complex can be
difficult (remember the recent backyard Goshawk reports/pics that all
turned out to be Cooper's Hawks) but the most challenging in that complex
by far is male Cooper's Hawks and female Sharp-shinned Hawks.

Most hawk watch folks or savvy birders can instantly recognize a female
Cooper's Hawk or male Sharp-shinned Hawk--the differences in flight and
size are pretty unmistakable.  Things become infinitely more difficult when
it's the other way around -- as male Cooper's can be almost as small as
female Sharp-shinned with just a couple of inches in overlap--obvious in
the hand, not in the field.

In any event, the bird in question is in fact a male Cooper's Hawk.  The
larger head, unstreaked throat, sparse thin breast streaks that fade
towards the tail all point towards that ID.  I know the tail is a major
point of contention - it helps to note that the bird is currently in molt
which is making the tail appear much more Sharp-shinned like than the
normal graduated/rounded Cooper's tail.

The wings and profile of the bird in the 1st picture definitely appear
Sharp-shinned at first glance, but understand that the bird is in a 'wing
down-flap' and makes those wings appear much stockier than they are --
which you can see in the 2nd picture for comparison's sake.  The 2nd photo
shows less stocky, and much longer wings.

Hope everyone enjoyed the photos!

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