I have had requests to do an identification thing about Cooper's hawks vs. Sharp-shinned hawks.
I didn't have any pics of Sharpies, so I had to borrow.
Coops and Sharpies can be tricky to differentiate.
They are both accipiters, both are woodland birds and their markings are almost identical.
But a few things can tip you off:
1. Size: Coop's are crow-sized (15 inches long for males, 18 inches for females)
and Sharpies are jay-sized (9-11 inches for males, 12-14 for females)
BUT: There are exceptions...you might see a very small Coop, and mistake it for a Sharpie. so size is not always an indicator.
2. Head: Coop's have a dark gray "cap" that does not extend down the back of the head. Feathers also are raised in a bit of a crest in the back, which you will never see on a Sharpie.
Sharpies have a dark gray "hood" that DOES extend down the back of the head.
3. Body: Coop's have a "tubular" appearance, with a broad chest and thick body.
Stocky (think "TUBE").
Sharpie's have a broad chest and thinner hips, lending to a upside-down triangle.
Center of gravity looks HIGH (think APPLE).
4. Tail: The best indicator...
Coop's have a rounded tail with a broad white tip. The middle feathers are usually the longest.
Sharpie's have a squared tail, with a very thin white or gray tip.
5. Legs: Coop's legs are a bit thicker, Sharpies have pencil-thin legs. Both are yellow.
6. Flight: Coop's have a slower wing beat followed by a glide.
Sharpies are more erratic, with quicker beats followed by a glide.
In flight, a Coop's head will extend far beyond the shoulders, looking like a cross.
Sharpies have a much shorter neck, looking like a mallet.
Photo by Bill Diedrich
Sharp-shinned hawk. Note the "hood", the broad chest and narrow hips, the very thin terminal band on the squared tail and pencil-thin legs.
Photo by Chris Erion
Sharp-shinned hawk. Same thing: "Hood", thick body and slim hips (think "apple") and thin terminal band.
Photo by Patrick Lynch
This is a good picture to demonstrate size. This bird is no bigger than a blue jay.
Cooper's hawk. Thick body and "cap".