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Raptor ID?, SW Ontario, Canada (1 Viewer)

zoemonkey

New member
I saw this fellow in my backyard yesterday and am having a hard time IDing him/her. Sorry for the poor quality picture, I think it's time for a better camera :)
Here are the pictures I managed to get...
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v638/zoemonkey/P1000646.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v638/zoemonkey/P1000645.jpg
The bird was a bigger than an American Kestral, smaller than a Red-Tailed Hawk. Dark Brown, almost black head, wings and tail. reddish specks under his neck which gradually faded into a white underbelly. Very agile flier as I managed to watch him swoop around after a flock of Gold Finches. I'm at a loss, thank you to anyone who can help me id him.
 

B Lagopus

Voler
Hello ZoeMonkey and welcome to BirdForum!

There is a limited list of raptors that meet your description, particularly this time of year in Ontario. Sounds like a Merlin -- except the breast and belly, and those are an issue on the photo as well.

There is a smudge in the right area, and when I used curves in photo editing to find the contrast zone, I came up with the image below. Would it be fair to say that the bird in life had a dark head, white throat, brownish streaking on breast and belly (area between throat and legs), and was then white again around the ventral region (around the legs and beyond, or the "underbelly")? If so, female Merlin for my vote.

Proportions, behavior, overall coloration and even location then all fit (you would ordinarily be a bit north for Merlins in December, but this is a mild winter so far).

Hope this helps!
 

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Chris Benesh

So much work, so little time...so let's go birding

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Hotspur

James Spencer
United Kingdom
Its definitely one of Sharp-shinned or Coopers Hawk. Which im not sure. The pic is a bit blurry so have to go on size and i think it may be a bit large for a sharpie so i will say Coopers. However im eternally wrong in this game. Definitely one of the 2 though.
 

AlexC

Aves en Los Ángeles
Opus Editor
Supporter
I agree that it's an accipiter (like Chris, due to the reddish underparts and seemingly Coop's/Sharpie gray/blue/brown back, head, and wings), and I'm gonna say Sharpie because it actually looks small to me (esp. in comparison to garbage can below it!) and seems to have a rounded head - but from this distance it's hard to be sure.
 

B Lagopus

Voler
My bad. I was thinking Thunder Bay or Kenora as being geographically southwest Ontario (where any accipiter other than Gos would be quite unlikely in December), but despite geography that is all called Northwest Ontario, and Southwest would be... London? Despite being way in the east, but oh well, it is far to the south, and one where you have both small accipiters in the winter.

So Chris, Hotspur and Alex are quite likely right.

Though it is interesting, that even when you crank up the brightening on either photo, not only do the crown and back stay Merlin near-black rather than accipiter brown, but the auriculars and side of the neck do as well. Areas that would be more concolorous with the breast with either accipiter. Interesting as well, when you zoom in after brightening, what a short little stub of leg is visible, and how very long the feet are. Just like a Merlin in other words, accipiters stand higher up on longer legs, and have relatively smaller feet.

The breast/belly coloration does look much better for accipiter in Chris's photo edit, but what is natural, and where do we reach the overbrightening point?

But Chris, Hotspur, and Alex are likely right. Edited to add that it is not difficult to find photos that make accipiters look darker cheeked or shorter legged, depending on angle, posture and lighting. This appearance is much more common with Merlin photos, however, because that is their normal appearance. ;)

Sharp-shinned:
http://www3.cesa10.k12.wi.us/Ecosystems/woodlands/birds/sharpshin.jpg

Merlin:
http://www.duke.edu/~jspippen/naturephotos/merlin.htm
 
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zoemonkey

New member
I think you got it Chris B... it's the one in the first picture. There was no white under the chin although it's feet didn't seem as long as in the last sharp-shinned hawk picture.
To be specific I am located just east of Toronto, I don't know if these are common in my area, but it sure was a treat to see. (much to the dismay of my goldfinch friends who have since not been around much).
Thanks for all your help everyone.
 
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AlexC

Aves en Los Ángeles
Opus Editor
Supporter
zoemonkey said:
it's feet didn't seem as long as in the last sharp-shinned hawk picture.

Length of legs can be hidden by frontal (breast) feathers, so I wouldn't worry about that.
 
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