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Hawk ID help, suburban Massachusetts, USA (1 Viewer)

Fmfoxx

Member
United States
Hello,

My neighbor and I recently took these pictures of two different hawks in our backyards.
For the darker pics (my pics), I assume it's a coopers or sharp-shinned. I have never been able to tell the difference.
For the other one {my neighbor's): No idea. Is it possible that it is the same species, while appearing so different?

Thanks in advance,

Martin
 

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Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
The first is a young Cooper’s (#1-2) the second a Sharp-shinned?(#3)

Is this this only image of #3?
 
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Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
The neckless appearance with a small rounded head and large eyed look suggested Sharp-shinned to me. It also looks comparatively broad shouldered. I wondered about the legs and feet, they do look quite substantial but I concluded it was sitting back on it’s heels and fluffed up so looks a shorter and thicker legged as a result. ie it’s the long exposed shins that give the ’sharp-shinned look - the tarsi are thicker lower down.

https://www.chicagobotanic.org/birds/hawk_sharp_shinned

and this one which looks a bit ‘thick legged’ - no 6 down

I didn’t notice though some of the leg was in shadow so could be wrong though and the feet and legs are too large as well as the fluffed up feathers of the body make the head seem smaller than it is.


Cooper’s, narrower shoulders and slimmer/longer shape

I’m very very sleepy (just woke!) and on a mobile so I would not be at all surprised if I haven’t seen this properly. 😎
 
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birdmeister

Well-known member
United States
Definitely an immature Cooper's in the first two images.

The bird in the 3rd image is an adult, hence the totally different appearance (slate gray back and wings, horizontal orange barring below).

I think this one's a Cooper's, too. I agree with Rafael that the legs are quite thick (though an interesting pic in Deb's link to a Sharpie at and angle!). My impression of the eye is just the opposite to yours, Deb. I see it as rather "sunken in", and I think that gives the bird bird a fairly "fierce" look overall. One of the biggest features for me is the gray cheeks, since Sibley says only male Coops have gray. All Sharp-shinned and female Coops have orange cheeks. Finally, I can't decide whether it's sitting on a Mourning Dove or American Robin (some prey feathers look very orange). Either one would appear to be a lot smaller than the hawk, giving a size reference of sorts.
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
Hi Birdmeister

I was waiting for your comments ...although it has greyish cheeks, it also lacks the capped appearance of an adult Coop!? Is the ‘grey cheek’ feature regionally variable btw?
However, I was ready to go with RM’s opinion anyway (I fold easily these days 😁) so I guess it’s a Coop then!

A strangely ambiguous bird for me for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on.
 
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KC Foggin

Super Moderator
Staff member
Opus Editor
Supporter
United States
With those skinny legs on the first one, I'm going with a Sharpie!
 

The Bird Nuts

Birding Duo
With those skinny legs on the first one, I'm going with a Sharpie!
It's never good to go by just one field mark. The thin streaking PLUS the obviously graduated tail PLUS the small eye PLUS the flat head that is even with the top of the bill rule out Sharpie.
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
I got curious so looked at images in the BotW. This one has a less capped appearance than other photos, and might have been equally ambiguous if in a different angle? https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/4...9.1519839813.1612200194-2028801510.1583343203

Niels
Yes, clearly there is variability on both sides.

Although, in your example, the strong very dense, dark rufous barring extending all the way down through the trousers would be very indicative of Cooper’s for me if seen from the angle of the OP bird (which I would prefer since your bird looks as if it’s about to ejectile poop 😋)

@Birdnuts

I agree, as with all confusion species (especially when identifying from photos!) a conglomerate of features produces the safest ID - although KC is actually right, the legs on the Cooper’s do look a bit on the ‘skinny’ skinny side for Coop as do the legs on the second bird look too ‘robust’ for Sharpie! Sexual dimorphism probably has a role here in assessing leg thickness - a male Coop is going to have skinnier legs than a female - a bird fluffed up and hunkering down can give a very different structural and size impression too than when alert and warm. In the case of the first OP bird, the imm Coop, the angle and perspective make the legs look thinner than they probably are.
 
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Fmfoxx

Member
United States
It's never good to go by just one field mark. The thin streaking PLUS the obviously graduated tail PLUS the small eye PLUS the flat head that is even with the top of the bill rule out Sharpie.
Thank you, everyone, for your input. I will try to get my friend to send me alternate pictures of the adult bird.

Meanwhile, here are a few additional pictures of the immature bird. Two, showing its tail feathers more fanned out, and one (extremely unfocused) picture of it leaping from its perch, showing the shape of its legs.
 

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Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
Thanks Martin - your bird is certainly an immature Cooper’s Hawk, it was of your neighbour’s bird that I asked if there were anymore images.

Btw welcome to Birdforum - I hope you are enjoying your first taste of asking for an ID here 😅
 
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birdmeister

Well-known member
United States
Hi Birdmeister

I was waiting for your comments ...although it has greyish cheeks, it also lacks the capped appearance of an adult Coop!? Is the ‘grey cheek’ feature regionally variable btw?
However, I was ready to go with RM’s opinion anyway (I fold easily these days 😁) so I guess it’s a Coop then!

A strangely ambiguous bird for me for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on.
Deb, your response got me curious too.

I just went and looked through a large number of Macaulay Library photos to explore the gray cheeks thing. My conclusion is that I think it's a good field mark for Sharp-shinned, but not foolproof. Here's an exception similar to the one you linked:


If this one below is actually a Sharpie, it's a notable exception. However, I think it's a misidentified Coop.

The one thing that puzzles me about this feature is that Sibley is, to my knowledge, the only field guide that highlights this. Maybe others thought it unreliable or not relevant? I've never been told about it by other folks, either.

In regards to your comment on a weak "cap" appearance, I see it as fine for Cooper's. Unfortunately we can't see the nape, but I think the fact that the pale cheeks extend as far back as can be seen is a good indicator.


As an aside, are you able to freely roam the Macaulay Library? I understand eBird has restricted the "Explore" features for non-users. It's an interesting resource for mass image browsing, especially for such cases like this where it's sort of an impulse search.
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
Hi Birdmeister

AFAIA, I can access all the photo images on the Macaulay library database and ebird. I am a registered user with ebird so can access the range maps too (although they are not completely reliable since they are observer dependant.). I have spent a lot of time browsing the BF Gallery recently and I have to say, the quality of images uploaded by BFers to the gallery are far more impressive than many of the images people upload to ebird (obviously because they are often people’s cra**iest record shots on ebird). If you want clear images, you could do worse than starting with Opus and the BF Gallery (they are probably more likely to be correctly labelled too 😉)
 

Fmfoxx

Member
United States
The first is a young Cooper’s (#1-2) the second a Sharp-shinned?(#3)

Is this this only image of #3?
Hi. My neighbor got back to me with another photo of the hawk from that day's shoot. And he states that the prey in its talons is some sort of mammal. Hope this helps with the sharpie/coopers analysis...

Martin
 

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Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
Yes, mainly note the tip of the tail that can be seen now - clearly rounded tips and the head from this angle with a more square blocky shape, a longer neck and looking on this image much more in proportion with the rest of the body. The talons are also looking appropriately large! Everything we need for Cooper’s 😉
 
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