Background Switcher (Hidden)

Sharp-shinned or Cooper's Hawk?

Friday, August 7, 2020

Phoebe, Liam and I  were eating a delicious pot pie at our outdoor table, with freshly picked sweet corn and garden green beans when we felt a rush go by, heard a small squeaky yelp and the twittering thunder of mourning dove wings, and knew that a hawk had claimed its meal under the feeders. Phoebe sprinted for the house, as she saw it land in the backyard, grabbed my big rig, and took this first photo through my studio window. It's a dandy. The cardinal is still intact in Phoebe's shot, but he won't be for long.

I thought it would be kind of fun to go through the process of identifying this bird. So in my first post I'll post the photos, so as to let you soak it in and decide for yourself what you're seeing,
and in my second I'll give an explanation of what I'm seeing in each one. Each photo has at least one good clue to the bird's ID. This photo has two:

It's interesting and doubtless disconcerting to some to see it deconstruct the cardinal more with each frame.

This bird just tore him apart before our eyes, removing and discarding one wing with a single bite. Mercifully, the cardinal was dispatched first, so he wasn't here for any of this. 

So take your guesses and give your reasoning, if you're so inclined, in the Comments section.

If it makes you feel any better I had to really look at these photos and talk to myself a lot, to make sure that this bird is what I think it is.

 I resisted the urge to send it to any one of several raptor whizzes I could name, because I durn well know what it is. Ha ha!! I am always doubting myself, always wanting to make sure by asking someone who knows more. Which is interesting, because so many people turn to me for bird ID's. I guess in my heart of hearts, I want to be sure, and have no pride about double-checking. But this time, I had enough good evidence to make the call.

The bird never ate a bite, just plucked furiously and flew, which tells me it most likely has babes to feed. The frequency with which we've been seeing it this summer argues for its being a resident with a nest. We've had this species nest just off our land in years past, so it was good to see it again. This  is good news for biodiversity, and bad news for cardinals.


I think it's a Coopers' - we get those in Oregon. Let me know if I'm right (but remember the ex-husband was really the bird person, LauraDTicer


I vote Coopers!

Julie, when I saw the title of this post, I wondered my RSS feed was sending me a "rerun": you had another post entitled "Sharp-shin or Cooper's?" back in January 2015, which I know because you included a few of my own hawk photos in it!

Sooooo, after re-reading that post and your follow-up, I would say that this bird is a Cooper's based on the blackish cap and rounded tail. To me, sharpies look like they have small heads in relation to their body. That doesn't seem to be the case here. But I could be wrong!


First pass I go with Coopers but if its an adult feeding babies I feel the eyes should be more trademark bright orange red. also ut the floofy pantaloons. I don't think sharpies have them. Lots more russet chest and underparts and less bright white also makes me think Coopers.

In any case I wish her well and knowing only a scant 20% of young hawks survive I wish them all the luck in the world and more lizards! Xo

That pale nape says Coops.

Definitely an accipiter, and probably a Coop, but I also wondered about Goshawk. Wish I could tell the size.

I've been waffling but lean slightly more towards a sharpie.

I'm not sure either... But I think coopers... Eyes closer to beak than nape... nape different colored and tail feathers look the same length.. although I'm not sure about the tail

Sharp shinned. small head to body ratio.

Sharpie. Same reason as pineflatwoodsgirl plus looks like squared tail

I think it is a young Coopers. Eye color to me looks light. The cap is much darker than the nape. The tail is rounded. The bird seems smallish especially the beak so I am thinking this is a youngish male Coopers Hawk.

Rounded tail, black cap indicates Cooper’s hawk

I was going to opine a late cardinal...

Hmmm, methinks Sharpie.

I think COHA

I’m gonna say Cooper’s based on the length of the tail and it’s overall size relative to the cardinal.

Cooper's hawk, white tip tail, rounded, face looks like it, powerful


I'm inclined to Sharp-shinned because it has no crest (the top of it's head is flat, not round), the eyes look prominent, although the angle of the photos make this a bit ambiguous, the short tail, and the way the neck feathers frame its chin. Because of the foreshortening, I cant tell its size so gender is undetermined. The beak looks small too. It's a full adult in either case, with the red eyes and russet barring on it's breast and black back. Sharpies like smaller birds too. Eastern Coopers and Sharpies are darker overall than those here in the Southwest.

Adult male Big Blue Darter. Is this late for still feeding fledglings?

This bird is in adult plumage and has a dark red eye. This isnt a young bird.

Very nice post :)

[Back to Top]