Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Cooper's versus sharp-shinned


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.
Remember: Coop's=CAP
Sharpies=HOOD


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.


coopers hawk
Cooper's hawk. Note the "cap", the thick body and wide white terminal band on the tail.


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.



Coop at the yurt
Cooper's hawk. Thick body and "cap".

Any questions?

9 comments:

mon@rch said...

Awesome post Susan (Raptor woman)! We all need reminders on these two species and you were perfectly able to explain the differences! BRAVO

Susan Gets Native said...

Thanks, Tom.
*taking a bow*

Jayne said...

What a great lesson Susan! Thanks!

nina said...

How about a little ditty to remember all that--a mnemonic?
About caps and apples and hoods and....my brain gets mixed up easily!
I like your "educational" posts!

Mary said...

COOP CAP
SHARPIE HOOD
COOP CAP
SHARPIE HOOD
COOP CAP
SHARPIE HOOD
COOP CAP
SHARPIE HOOD
COOP CAP
SHARPIE HOOD
COOP CAP
SHARPIE HOOD

Ok, I think I've got it. ;o)

Lynne said...

HA HA!! I was just saying out loud
COOP CAP
SHARPIE HOOD
when I read Mary's comment!

The short word clues are EXCELLENT Susan!

HEAD
BELLY
TAIL

I hope I'll be ready for some raptor id at CAPE MAY in October!

Patrick Belardo said...

Susan, nice job. I always teach people the cross/mallet thing.

MojoMan said...

Thanks for the great lesson! Now, if I can keep the two of them separate from the broadwings...

KatDoc said...

Nice post Susan. My only question is, where do you go to see Sharpies in the wild? I still need my Life Sharp-shinned Hawk!

Nina:

Here are my memnonics for Cooper's vs Sharpie:

Cooper's = Crow-sized, with a Cap and wing bests so slow
you can Count them.

Sharpie = Smaller with a Square tail and Skinny legs.

It doesn't include all Susan's field marks, but it helps.

~Kathi