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Difference between European sparrowhawk and American Sharp-shinned hawk ?

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Old Friday 3rd November 2006, 17:36   #1
GreatHornedOwl
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Question Difference between European sparrowhawk and American Sharp-shinned hawk ?

... My question is simple : what is really the external difference between the European sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) and the American Sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus) ?

Seems to me that it would be very hard to distinguish between both species in the field in the hypothetical situation that you could see both in one day ... OK I know this is silly, it's "fiction", but really when I look into North american and European field guides, I personally really can't see much difference ...

... can anyone help me out on this one and point out the differences between both species ?

Thank you.
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Old Friday 3rd November 2006, 18:31   #2
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A Eurasian Sparrowhawk doesn't quite correspond to a Sharp-shinned Hawk, more like it fills the gap between Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawk. Note the size range for each species and gender:

Length in Centimeters:
Male / Female
Sharp-shinned 23-28 / 28-33
Sparrowhawk 29-34 / 35-41
Cooper's Hawk 36-41 / 41-48

I lack field experience with Sparrowhawks, but looking at photos, the flight profile appears like a combination of Sharpie and Coop features. A little head that barely breaks the plane of the wings, like a Sharpie, but a long rudder-like tail like a Coop. So likely all three could be told apart in flight by an experienced observer, but considering all three species together with a single poor perched photo would likely just make the accipiter debates all the more masochistical here...
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Old Friday 3rd November 2006, 18:36   #3
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I've seen this question posed (but not answered) before.
Let me try a few points:
Male Sharp-shinned is tiny, but female could reach the size of a male Sparrowhawk (as B Lagopus shows).
Sharpies have red eyes, Sparrowhawks yellow (very obvious!)
According to the guides, Sharpies have three tail bands on the closed tail (and one hidden at the base of the tail), Sparrowhawk four (and one at the base).
Juvenile Sharp-shinned have yellow eyes, but their underparts are blotched instead of barred, so it doesn't look like any Sparrowhawk.

I agree with the analysis of the profile, even though this can be hard to assess!

Last edited by Xenospiza : Friday 3rd November 2006 at 18:42.
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Old Friday 3rd November 2006, 23:09   #4
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... I see ...

So, the Sharp-shinned hawk is actually noticeably smaller, has only three tail bands visible & different shape of tail, and red eyes instead of yellow ...

OK thanks fellas, I know where to look now for the differences ... it's funny isn't it that you don't notice all that when the birds aren't illustrated in the same plate on the same page in a field guide

Well, I feel like a wiser man all of a sudden - thanks !!
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Old Sunday 26th April 2020, 08:35   #5
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Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xenospiza View Post
Sharpies have red eyes, Sparrowhawks yellow (very obvious!)
..
Juvenile Sharp-shinned have yellow eyes, but their underparts are blotched instead of barred, so it doesn't look like any Sparrowhawk.
I have seen this picture of a sharp shinned hawk: https://www.thespruce.com/sharp-shinned-hawk-387275

and this of a sparrowhawk: https://www.picfair.com/pics/0934032...ccipiter-nisus

They look so similar, are they correctly identified? They both seem to have orange eyes!

Last edited by querty : Sunday 26th April 2020 at 08:39. Reason: Typo
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Old Sunday 26th April 2020, 08:56   #6
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I'd like to see what the rarity committee made of it if one was claimed.
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Old Sunday 26th April 2020, 09:29   #7
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I'm confused, if what was claimed?
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Old Sunday 26th April 2020, 10:13   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by querty View Post
I'm confused, if what was claimed?
A Sharpie in the UK.
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Old Sunday 26th April 2020, 11:44   #9
querty
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Oh, apologies for any confusion, it wasn't a question of seeing one.

I provided a link to a photograph on a USA website and one on a UK website of what appears to be the same bird species with the same colour of eyes, which was said to be an identifying differentiator between the two different species named against the photos.

Therefore my question is whether someone could help with understanding why that is?

So it's not a practical question, merely academic I suppose.

Last edited by querty : Sunday 26th April 2020 at 11:46. Reason: Clarification
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Old Sunday 26th April 2020, 12:51   #10
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EBiird has records of both species on Adak Island in the Bering Sea. Thye may not be reliable of course but it does suggest that there are a handful of places in the world where it might actually be a practical question.
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Old Sunday 26th April 2020, 14:57   #11
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Martin Garner included Sharp-shinned Hawk in his Challenge Series, Autumn book, and regarded it as a very much potential vagrant to Europe. However, he mostly considered identification of juveniles, and they are different looking between the species. In addition, sexes of Sharp-shinned are similar and both resemble adult male Eurasian Sparrowhawk, so it is only these which are difficult to identify by colour. I am not trying a comprehensive comparison here, but Sharp-shinned looks to have generally more extensive rufous on underparts, and the pattern is more like white blotches, less regular streaking like in ESH. Also, as mentioned, the eyes are generally darker orange (mostly yellowish-orange in adult male ESH), and the number of bars on tail seems to hold also.
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Old Sunday 26th April 2020, 16:32   #12
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With Merlin, Am Kestrel, N Harrier etc etc in the WP it has to be a potential.

There was an interesting bird a few years back on the Scillies, prob on the Scilly Spider blog, also discussion -

https://birdingfrontiers.wordpress.c...3/scilly-hawk/
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Old Monday 27th April 2020, 08:18   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by querty View Post
Oh, apologies for any confusion, it wasn't a question of seeing one.

I provided a link to a photograph on a USA website and one on a UK website of what appears to be the same bird species with the same colour of eyes, which was said to be an identifying differentiator between the two different species named against the photos.

Therefore my question is whether someone could help with understanding why that is?

So it's not a practical question, merely academic I suppose.
Eye color varies with age, in both species.

Sharp-shins go from pale yellow juveniles to orange adults and reddish older birds, though you do see some young adults with rather yellow eyes.

Sparrowhawk adults evolve in much the same way, except that only males' eyes ever go beyond orange to reach red. Note that:
"While eye colour correlated with age, the variation within age groups was so great that
eye colour was of no practical help in ageing individual birds precisely
."

In short, there's a lot of variability within species, and a lot of overlap between species. If you see a darkly red-eyed bird laying eggs, it's probably not a sparrowhawk; other than that, eye color isn't much use for ID.
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Old Monday 27th April 2020, 09:58   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nartreb View Post
Eye color varies with age, in both species.

Sharp-shins go from pale yellow juveniles to orange adults and reddish older birds, though you do see some young adults with rather yellow eyes.

Sparrowhawk adults evolve in much the same way, except that only males' eyes ever go beyond orange to reach red. Note that:
"While eye colour correlated with age, the variation within age groups was so great that
eye colour was of no practical help in ageing individual birds precisely
."

In short, there's a lot of variability within species, and a lot of overlap between species. If you see a darkly red-eyed bird laying eggs, it's probably not a sparrowhawk; other than that, eye color isn't much use for ID.
Interesting. There's also the question of other populations of Sharpies in South America etc if you include those in that species. Their eye colour varies
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