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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Hawk ID - Southern Utah, USA (1 Viewer)

MattDinUtah

Member
United States
I saw this guy behind the house a couple of weeks ago. He made a pass at the tree where the birds perch before hitting the feeder, came up empty and flew to a tree on the next hill. I only got this look at him. When he took off he flew directly away from me.

I have tentatively identified him as a Cooper's Hawk because of the dark cap and light nape, the hooked bill, the red eye, the gray upper back and longish, banded tail. Am I right? Are there other things I should have looked at given the view I had?

Cooper's Hawk 20210721-1.jpg
 

Sangahyando

Well-known member
I have tentatively identified him as a Cooper's Hawk because of the dark cap and light nape, the hooked bill, the red eye, the gray upper back and longish, banded tail. Am I right? Are there other things I should have looked at given the view I had?
I think your initial ID is correct.
To separate Cooper's from similar species, you should also look at the thickness of the legs, relative lengths of toes and legs (Sharp-shinned Hawk has slightly longer toes and thinner legs; Buteo species have shorter legs), and the tail tip (Sharpie usually has a more squared-off tail tip, whereas it's more rounded in Cooper's and Goshawk). For the above image, Goshawk can be ruled out based on the head pattern, and because of some other details (e.g. it has even stronger legs than Cooper's).
 

nartreb

Speak softly and carry a long lens
You identified it correctly. In addition to the things you mentioned, there is the overall slender shape of the bird (especially in proportion to the long tail). The proportions tell you it's an accipeter (or perhaps a falcon, but those have distinctive facial markings), which leaves you with only three options (in the US). Eye color is also a good one in this case: color varies with age, but among hawks only adult accipeters have red eyes.

It's obviously not a northern goshawk, so it's either cooper's or sharp-shin. Those two can be difficult to tell apart. Either of those species can have extremely thin-looking legs depending on viewing angle, and I've never been able to judge the length of a bird's toes. One of the most reliable field marks is the degree of contrast between the cap and the nape. The other is the difference in tail shape. The outer tail feathers in a coopers' are visibly shorter than the rest, giving the tail-tip a rounded look when folded, compared to a squared-off look for sharp-shin. This difference is much more reliable when you can see the underside of the tail and positively identify the outer feathers. It's still visible in your photo, if you're looking for it. Do be careful with birds in flight or otherwise holding their tail feathers in odd positions.
 

Butty

Well-known member
Cooper's hawk. Relative to sharp-shinned hawk: big bill, sloping forehead, cap substantially darker than mantle, pale sides to hindneck. Tail-tip structure doesn't show well enough in this photo to make it an ID criterion. I don't consider leg thickness to be a useful field ID feature.
 

MattDinUtah

Member
United States
Thank you, all of you, for the information and explaining what you look at when identifying birds. I don't know anyone that is a bird watcher so this forum is so far my only source of information aside from my field guild and a few YouTube videos. The information you provide, especially the characteristics you look at, help me to understand what to focus on, especially if I'm in binocular vs. camera mode. Your feedback is very much appreciated!
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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