Sharp-Shinned Hawk/Coopers Hawk ID Tips


















I thought Id get this out of the way,as its a toughie.Its almost impossible to describe a Sharp-shinned Hawk,without refering to the Coopers Hawk,so why make things tough? Sharp-shinned Hawks are the smallest Accipiter,with a wingspan of just under 60cm( 24in) and a length of 25-35cm(10-14cm),with females being up to 1/3 larger then males. There is no overlap in size with the Coopers Hawk! The largest Sharp-shinned Hawk is smaller then the smallest Coopers Hawk.They have short,rounded wings. The tail is square and often appears knotched,whether perched or flying. This can be tricky to distinguish in flight,but careful study,and U can see that each individual feather is square on a Sharp-shinned Hawk,while those on a Coopers are rounded. Perched a Coopers Hawks tail is much longer. Feet,legs,head and length of the tail on a Sharp-shinned Hawks are all smaller. The eyes of a Sharp-shinned Hawk appear to be set further forward then that of a Coopers Hawk. With nothing to compare it to in the field,these differences are often hard to distinguish.
Adults have a rusty barred chest,with blue/grey back and a banned tail of the same blue/grey colour and white. Juveniles are brown backed with brown on white streaking on the chest. Coopers Hawks are the same...colour wont help distinguish between the 2. Coopers Hawks are 36-51cm(14-20inches) in length and have a wingspan of 74-94cm(29-37inches).
In flight,the cadence of a Sharp-shinned Hawk is a series of frequent flaps and glides. Flap,flap,flap glide.They look abit frantic like they believe they will fall out of the sky if they dont flap often. . Sharpies are very aggressive and may often attack other Sharp-shinneds or even much larger birds of prey. After their last flap,they push their wings forward,making it appear that their heads DO NOT extend beyond the wings. A Coopers Hawk's flight pattern is similar,but it seems more sure of itself..more definite and their heads appear to stick out further. The difference in the heads are again sometimes very difficult to differentiate.
A GOOD CHEAT to remember,is that in migration,many sites report the ratio of Sharp-shinned to Coopers Hawks is as much as 30-1,therefore most birds U will see will be Sharp-shinned Hawks. When seen around feeders,compare the bird to other birds around your feeder. A Sharp-shinned Hawk will scare Doves or pigeons but is unlikely to ever take something so large.
Most important to remember...even experts have troubles sometimes,telling the difference between a Sharpie and a Coopers,never feel too badly if people disagree with your decision. NOONE is right 100% of the time.

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