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Identification help! (1 Viewer)

Mkellyy44

New member
United States
Can someone help me identify this bird— I’m not even sure if it’s a bird of prey or a falcon honestly. I live in Northern California if that means anything.....All help is appreciated! . 40C74A68-5620-4767-B148-9750E36D8F34.png
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
Welcome to Birdforum MKelly! 🙂

Cooper’s was my first impression too - apart from the obvious white tipped long tail, it looks ‘necky’ - SHHA have ‘no necks’ and a more rounded head shape than what I can see here.
 

Mkellyy44

New member
United States
Welcome to Birdforum MKelly! 🙂

Cooper’s was my first impression too - apart from the obvious white tipped long tail, it looks ‘necky’ - SHHA have ‘no necks’ and a more rounded head shape than what I can see here.
I was thinking Cooper’s hawk too because of the tail but we also get a lot of red shouldered hawks here too and it’s hard to tell them apart for me since I’m still a beginner😊 thanks for the help!
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
I was thinking Cooper’s hawk too because of the tail but we also get a lot of red shouldered hawks here too and it’s hard to tell them apart for me since I’m still a beginner😊 thanks for the help!
Hi MKelly

A really good start with identifying the smaller birds of prey is to separate them into 3 groups; falcons, which fly very fast and have long pointed wings almost reaching the tip of tail when perched: Accipters like Sharpies and Cooper’s, that have proportionately shorter wings and long tails and when perched, their wings only reach about 1/3 down a broad banded tail. Finally, you have hawks/buteos which fly slowly on broad wings and when perched their wing reach almost to the end of a finely barred or plain tail. (Red-shouldered Hawk belongs in this last group)

This may help you - the website allows you to compare similar species side by side 🙂

 

rkj

Well-known member
Downloading the picture and blowing it up - is this bird missing all the feathers on its head? Or is the photo just too grainy to tell?
The easiest way to distinguish Sharp-shinned Hawk from Cooper's Hawk in photos can be size, if you can get an accurate measure of it. If you know the size of the top rail on the fence that could give a way to judge the size of the bird.
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
Downloading the picture and blowing it up - is this bird missing all the feathers on its head? Or is the photo just too grainy to tell?
The easiest way to distinguish Sharp-shinned Hawk from Cooper's Hawk in photos can be size, if you can get an accurate measure of it. If you know the size of the top rail on the fence that could give a way to judge the size of the bird.
Structure is easier than trying to guess size from a single image or what size a post is in the photo - when in the field when there are no other birds, size is extremely difficult to judge, even with a little experience- For someone learning to ID raptors, I would concentrate on structure, flight patterns and underwing plumage rather than size. As for identifying raptors/specifically SHHA v COHA, there are enough plumage and structural differences between them that are usually visible in an image (as is here) without worrying about fence posts imo 🙂
 

Mkellyy44

New member
United States
Hi MKelly

A really good start with identifying the smaller birds of prey is to separate them into 3 groups; falcons, which fly very fast and have long pointed wings almost reaching the tip of tail when perched: Accipters like Sharpies and Cooper’s, that have proportionately shorter wings and long tails and when perched, their wings only reach about 1/3 down a broad banded tail. Finally, you have hawks/buteos which fly slowly on broad wings and when perched their wing reach almost to the end of a finely barred or plain tail. (Red-shouldered Hawk belongs in this last group)

This may help you - the website allows you to compare similar species side by side 🙂

Thank you so much for the resource!
 

rkj

Well-known member
Welcome to Birdforum MKelly! 🙂

Cooper’s was my first impression too - apart from the obvious white tipped long tail, it looks ‘necky’ - SHHA have ‘no necks’ and a more rounded head shape than what I can see here.
Structure is easier than trying to guess size from a single image or what size a post is in the photo - when in the field when there are no other birds, size is extremely difficult to judge, even with a little experience- For someone learning to ID raptors, I would concentrate on structure, flight patterns and underwing plumage rather than size. As for identifying raptors/specifically SHHA v COHA, there are enough plumage and structural differences between them that are usually visible in an image (as is here) without worrying about fence posts imo 🙂
I would agree with this for someone learning to ID raptors, but as I said, in photos, if you can get a scale, size can sometimes be determined. In this case it is difficult to judge structure because of the quality of the photo: the breast blends into the grass in the background, the fence post hides the vent affecting the apparent length of the tail, and how 'necky' it is is impossible to judge on a bald bird. We probably all have photos like this that don't show the detail we would like. But if this was taken in the OPs garden it might be easy to measure the fence rails and from that get an idea of the size of the bird - which might (or might not) be definitive. I agree that the apparent broad white tail-tip supports a Cooper's Hawk, but I would prefer more data before making the call.
 

Butty

Well-known member
as I said, in photos, if you can get a scale, size can sometimes be determined. In this case it is difficult to judge structure because of the quality of the photo: the breast blends into the grass in the background, the fence post hides the vent affecting the apparent length of the tail, and how 'necky' it is is impossible to judge on a bald bird. We probably all have photos like this that don't show the detail we would like. But if this was taken in the OPs garden it might be easy to measure the fence rails and from that get an idea of the size of the bird
I really (really) caution against using this approach of trying to establish an exact numerical size for a bird from either photos or field observation, except (perhaps) in the most extreme and desperate of circumstances. It is fraught with possibilities for error.
There are a string of features that can be used in different circumstances to separate Cooper's hawk and sharp-shinned hawk, more-or-(mostly)-less definitively, but none of them is visible here. Cooper's hawk tends to look chunky, and sharp-shinned hawk dinky - and this looks more chunky than dinky. But all else is guesswork.
 

rkj

Well-known member
Deb,

I do not want to doubt your experience or ability to identify some Accipiters from a single photo. But sincerely, I just do not see some of the things you are seeing in this photo, particularly with regard to the shape of the head. Here is the photo cropped and resized. I see a bird with a small round head - because it has no feathers.

40C74A68-5620-4767-B148-9750E36D8F34 cropped.png
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
I do not want to doubt your experience or ability to identify some Accipiters from a single photo. But sincerely, I just do not see some of the things you are seeing in this photo
Well you may note that it is not just me saying this looks better for Coopers than a Sharpie - 3 other experienced birders on this thread plus the OP have arrived at the same conclusion,
 
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Butty

Well-known member
I just do not see some of the things you are seeing in this photo, particularly with regard to the shape of the head.
I think it's clear that I agree with you on this point. But for different reasons...

I see a bird with a small round head - because it has no feathers.
Here I'm sure you're wrong - I guess because you're misreading the photo - you're thinking that something in the image is the head which actually isn't the head at all. I don't see anything here to suggest a small round head, with or without feathers - certainly I don't get any hint of a bird with an unfeathered head.
 

rkj

Well-known member
I think it's clear that I agree with you on this point. But for different reasons...


Here I'm sure you're wrong - I guess because you're misreading the photo - you're thinking that something in the image is the head which actually isn't the head at all. I don't see anything here to suggest a small round head, with or without feathers - certainly I don't get any hint of a bird with an unfeathered head.
Here is what I see as the head, labeled. Looks like the head of a vulture. I am not suggesting it is a vulture. View attachment 1373954 40C74A68-5620-4767-B148-9750E36D8F34 cropped labeled.jpg
 

Butty

Well-known member
Here is what I see as the head, labeled.
Well, it is awfully difficult/impossible to tell what's going on amid all that mush, isn't it - which is the point I made earlier. But... I think (OK, I'm reasonably sure) that the end-points of your pointers are pointing at background vegetation, not bird.
 

rkj

Well-known member
Well, it is awfully difficult/impossible to tell what's going on amid all that mush, isn't it - which is the point I made earlier. But... I think (OK, I'm reasonably sure) that the end-points of your pointers are pointing at background vegetation, not bird.
Please indicate then, what you believe is bird and not background vegetation.
 

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