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Pics taken today in my back yard (West Chester, PA).

Whenever I see an accipiter in my back yard I assume its a Cooper's.  Mostly because every single one I've gotten good pics of was a Cooper's but also because Sharpies are less likely to come to back yard feeders.  Having said that, my neighborhood is wooded and the land behind my property is open ground with a pond and lots of trees.  Also, I'm not far from some fairly expansive wooded areas.  So Sharpies are certainly possible.

When this bird flew into my yard, my first strong impression was "that is a really small hawk".  I realize size estimations of single birds is fraught with peril, but it is my back yard and I've seen several Cooper's.  Since it looked small, I decided to grab some pics in spite of the crappy lighting.  After looking at them, I am leaning towards Sharp-shinned.  However, I am not confident with this assessment.  Since it would be my first back yard Sharp-shinned, I thought I'd check.  My confusion:

  • Legs look thin.  In most pictures, the head looks small relative to the body and I don't see a cap.  The top of the bill forms a small angle with the forehead.  All of these favor Sharp-shinned.
  • However, the eyes do not look especially big to me and don't look centered on the head.  Also, on one of the flight pics, the white band on the tail looks pretty thick.  These favor Cooper's.

I can't even decide if it is an adult or immature.  The iris look pretty light (like an immature's yellow iris), but the pics are so bad I'm not sure.  On the flying pics, the undersides look streaked like an immature.  However, on the perched pics, the undersides look more like an adult.  So two questions:

  1. Cooper's or Sharpie?
  2. Adult or immature?

Thanks in advance!









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Young female Sharp-shinned Hawk for me because of the blotchy orange streaks on the breast and belly, thin legs, and steep forehead.  The vertical streaking on the breast, streaked head/neck, and pale eyes make this a young bird.

Edited by The Bird Nuts
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2 hours ago, Jefferson Shank said:

Yes, it is a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

I was getting the birds mixed up when I agreed with Cooper's earlier. I have this problem with memorizing the differences between 2 birds and then forgetting which birds is which later! ?

My method for remembering the Aechmophorus grebes is "'Western' starts with the same letter as 'white', 'Clark' is similar to 'black' and 'dark'--and that's backwards."

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