Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sticking to what I know

The yearly migration to Cape May draws nigh. Since shorebirds and sparrows are not my strong suit, we will focus on hawk IDs.

*observe my blatant ignoring of last post*

When you see a bird of prey, what is usually the situation?
1. Perching
2. Flying away

We will go through some of the more common birds, with all the views.

Red-shouldered hawk:
Perching, front>>>
RS 112807
Look for all that orange. (Immature: dark brown vertical streaking)

Perching, back>>>
red shouldered in the yard
Black and white banded tail, scalloped back.

Flying away>>>
(unashamedly stolen from Kyle's blog)

Their wings kind of remind me of checkerboards.

Red-tailed hawk:
Perching, back>>>>>
Talons and tail
Red tail....
(Immature: Brown striped tail)

Perching, front>>>
RT front view
Dark belly band on a pale front.
*Word about red-tailed hawk plumage...this is the most variable hawk in North America. They can be very pale, all the way through the spectrum to very dark. There are four light morphs and three dark morphs. Lighter birds have a pale "V" on their backs that can be seen while perched.

Flying away>>>
(stolen from Kyle, again)

When you see a large hawk flying overhead, and can't see the color of the tail, look at the underside for dark crescents at the

Cooper's Hawk:
Perching, back>>>
coopers hawk
Dark cap, dark gray back, long long tail.
Word about Cooper's vs. Sharp-shinned: Size is a good indicator, but tough in the field (and a female Sharpie and a male Coop are about the same size).
Sharpies have a dark "hood"....Coops have a "cap".
Coop's tails are rounded, Sharpie's are squared.

Perching, front>>>
Pale chest with orange barring. Long long tail.

Flying over>>>
hawk silouette 1
I love this shot (got it as I surprised a Coop as I came around the corner of the house).
A typical accipiter silhouette. Short wings, long tail.

Other birds of prey, in flight>>>

Broad-winged hawk:

Look for that wide white band on a otherwise dark tail. And a crisp dark outline of the wings.

Rough-legged hawk:
Rough legged hawk 1
The black "windows" on the wrist are distinctive.
They will "kite" and hover while hunting. Great photo ops.


Osprey fly with crooked wings. They keep their wings bent at the elbow (drooping "hands").
And they are huge. Hard to mis-ID an osprey.
The dark areas under their wings remind me of a Tiny Tim crutch.

Well. I feel better. Gotta look at the bright side. Because it's...well...brighter.


Owlman said...

VERY informative, thanks Susan

NCmountainwoman said...

Raptor ID is WAY more important than sparrows or warblers, with whom I am comfortable with such phrases as "summer warbler" or LBJ.

But when I see one of those marvelous big birds in the sky, I really need to know what it is. Thanks for the helpful hints.

Joy said...

It is suprisingly difficult to id the hawks for me. I can almost never tell the difference between the coopers and sharp shinned. Thanks for the info on the tail shape, that should help greatly!

Mary said...

Well, maybe hawks are almost as difficult as sparrows, but not quite. You ARE the raptor lady :o)

Windyridge said...

This was an excellent post. Thanks for the various views. Did you know we had an albino red tailed hawk here for a whole year. It was fantastic and I got so close to it on horseback. He was so easy to spot in the winter time, a big white dot perched on a tree in the woods. We were so sorry to see him go.

dguzman said...

Soooo cool, Susan. Thanks! It's been a year since that great raptor ID workshop at Cape May, so I'm a little rusty!

Lynne said...

I'm expecting you'll be my own personal raptortutor. I like that word- RAPTORTUTOR! RAPTORTUTOR!

I need to do a sparrow post or two and re-write my sparrow notes. Then It's time for me to get my hiney in gear and study my raptors so I don't look like a total boob.

KatDoc said...

I was studying my raptors today during a slow period at work - had my Sibley's field guide and "Identify Yourself" spread out on a table and was reviewing "wing windows," "subterminal bands" and "patagial bars." The staff thought I was nuts. (More than usual, that is.)

"I don't want to get there and look stupid," I explained. They told me it was too late.

~Kathi, who really NEEDS a vacation

Kyle said...

Ooo, "Raptor 101" -- very cool!! I've bookmarked that post!

Oh, and thanks for the link. Feel free to steal away anytime! :)

Kyle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RuthieJ said...

I wish you could have been with me on the deer stand last Saturday.....I was in full camo (head and face also) and fidgeting with my camera to try and photograph a RC Kinglet. I put the camera down and looked up to see a small hawk streaking directly towards my head! OMG!! It was less than 20 feet away--I actually had to duck and saw it quickly swerve to the left as it realized I wasn't prey it could deal with. I think it was a Sharp-Shinned but I only quickly noted lots of brown streaking on the white breast. About the size of a Kestrel, but in the woods, would you think Sharp-Shinned as the most likely also?
That was definitely one of the most amazing experiences I've had while deer hunting.

John T. said...

I think we live in hawk heaven. Lots and lots of mice and cotton tails. I see hawks on telphone poles, fence posts, etc. I'm bookmarking this for future use.