Date: 12/1/18 9:30 am From: Leon Bright <urraca2...> Subject: [cobirds] Accipiter I.D. for beginners
If you haven't discovered already, two common raptors, members of the Accipiter family, are tricky to distinguish one from the other. Both Sharp-shinned Hawks and Cooper's hawks mostly feed on small- to medium-sized birds, so they like to hang around neighborhoods with feeders. If you check your field guide you'll see that the plumage is very similar in the two species and they overlap in size. However, there is a considerable difference between some male "sharpies" (small) and some female "coops" (larger). Yesterday I saw all the birds in my back yard flush in a panic. The cause was a male sharpie that came flying past. I knew it was a Sharp-shinned because it was not much larger than the White-winged and Eurasian Collard-doves that scattered. This morning, seeing no feeder birds the back yard, I realized why when I spotted a very large Accipiter perched on the feeding station. I deduced it was a female Cooper's since it was about twice the size of a White-winged dove.
So, when seeing an Accipiter, don't give up on identifying it but try to check for size and then examine it closely for the field marks noted in your field guide. Of course, comparing size and seeing field marks take a lot of practice, but that's part of the fun of birding.