Friday, November 14, 2008

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

This Sharp-Shinned Hawk is a persistent little bugger! She has visited the yard on at least 4 separate occasions in the last 24 hours! It obviously makes for slow song bird watching but it's still a pretty awesome sight.

Now, there is almost always confusion when it comes to determining if it’s a Sharp-Shinned (Accipiter striatus) or a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). You can follow this link and that will take you to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and their Hawk Identification page. It’s extremely helpful and it’s also a shameless plug for me (my photo is the first Cooper’s hawk on the right). This site will give you reliable and scientific ways to tell the 2 similar Hawks apart.

Now, would you like to hear about an unscientific way to tell?

So, there's a Hawk in your yard and you want to tell if it's a Sharp-Shinned or a Cooper's? Easiest way? Let them see you. Seriously. If the Hawk in question sees you and flies away, it's a Cooper's. If it stays put, it a Sharp-Shinned. I swear, that's how we are able to tell anymore. We don’t have to look at their size or their tail or their markings. We just let them see us. The Cooper's does NOT like people. The Sharp-Shinned could care less if we are in the yard when he is. The Sharpie will let us walk under him in the tree or move around in the yard while he sits on the fence. It's amazing. Every single time that the Cooper's has seen us come out into the yard, he is off like a shot. But not the Sharpie. Has anyone else noticed this or do we just have kooky Hawks?

I came out into the backyard yesterday and the first thing I notice is that there isn't a single bird in the yard, but I can hear a few Black-Capped Chickadees going nuts. Usually, when the Chickadees are doing their "chickadee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee" we know there is a Hawk around. So, I started scanning the yard and, sure enough, right in from of me on the clothes line post sits a Hawk.

I zoom in with the camera (in shaking hands) and I see that she is staring right at me. She didn't flinch or fly away. She just sat there. This tells me (unscientifically) that this must be a Sharpie.

She then stretches her legs out and tucks one of them into her feathers.

Then, she just sits there and proceeds to scan the yard for prey.

As we were going through the photos, Michelle noticed and noted, that the Sharpie seems to be missing a talon. I believe that she is correct and we don't quite know what to make of it. Do they regrow their talons if one is lost? Does it make them less likely to survive?

Then this morning, I come out into (again) an empty yard. Just as I start to scan the land, she flies in and hits one of our feeders. I think she was trying to spook something out into the open. No success, so she flies up into the Mountain Ash and sits there, watching.

She turns around a few times to let me know that she sees me and also to let me know that she knows that, if I step out of line, she will kick my butt.

She continues to fly around the yard, bumping into feeders (I'm assuming that she's trying to flush something out) and then she comes to rest on one of our shepherd hooks.

She scans the yard for a while longer and then takes off like she was shot out of a cannon after a Flicker that was too close to the yard. I saw her fly by a few minutes later being chased by crows but she apparently wasn't successful in nabbing the Flicker as her talons were empty.

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Rambling Woods said...

You should ask Cornell about the missing talon and surviability. I have a hard time as both visit the yard. Interesting as it does seem that the shapie doesn't mind as much as the Coopers if someone is around...I wonder if that is scientific...

Mary said...

Wow...all of your hawk photos are so good. How interesting to get to watch them that close. said...

Great Photos ! I'm trying to identify the bird that's chasing all of my little songbirds out of the yard and I think it's a Sharpie.

Cora said...

Thanks so much for the explanation between the Coopers and Sharp Shinned hawks. We live in Ohio and have had a hawk in the back yard swarming the bird feeder and perching in the trees. The next time this happens one of us will be heading out the door to see if the hawk flies away. Maybe, hopefully all Shin's act the way yours does. Thanks! Cora

C.A. Scott said...

This morning I had one on the back fence all of 20 feet away, just sitting there looking at me like "Hey, what's up girl?" Kinda' bopping her head a little as if listening to music. Glad to read your bit about Coopers don't like people and sharpie's don't mind them; I'm in Oregon, too, and I'll go with that (and the long skinny legs) to ID this one. She was lovely and just so relaxed w/my dog out there running around and everything. I was just frozen watching her until she calmly lit off for who-knows-where... Hope she comes back...