Cooper's Hawks looking like Sharpies

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Saturday, April 19, 2014 

I got three emails yesterday regarding Sharp-shinned Hawk vs. Cooper's Hawk, with photos attached. I was waiting to post this collage ("CLICK" to enlarge) on the HawkWatch International blog, and will when it is up and running in May, but thought I would start blogging here again until then. ALL of the birds in this composite are Cooper's Hawks! Some look small headed, some look square tailed, others look stocky overall, etc. and that is why Cooper's Hawks (especially adult males) are sometimes identified as Sharp-shinned Hawks and always will be...because they look so darn similar!!!! I'll do another post of Sharp-shinned Hawks that look like Cooper's just so all of us are confused and questioning everything we ever knew once again. My main point is, be careful when identifying can be tricky, since any single photo can be misleading. Good thing I have multiple images of all of these birds to reference, and some were very close but made small for this purpose. Hope this helps.
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great to see you blogging again Jerry and let us know when the blog moves for good to the Hawk Watch site.

I'll stay anonymous on this one because at the hawk count I frequent, male Cooper's are called sharp-shins all the time and I don't want to suggest people were wrong, but I will share this posting with them.

April 19, 2014 at 4:26 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

I hope it helps, but remember at least that it is OK to mis-ID birds and most people (me included) are more interested in having fun and seeing hawks than worrying about getting every one correctly ID'd.

April 19, 2014 at 4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree, and wasn't saying I don't screw them up too!

We do tests using trapped birds, releasing them from the hawk blinds and having the observers write down their ID's, and the male Cooper's is the one everyone gets wrong most. By the way, rumor has it (from a hawk trapper that worked with you) that when you did accipiter tests, you scored 100%, is that correct? They also said you were aging adult accipiters as SY or ASY as they went into trapping stations? You hear stories about people, but you never know the truth.

April 20, 2014 at 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Derek Lyon said...

I thought I knew my stuff; I would have mis-ID'd three or four of these. Depending on the counter about half of these coops would be called sharpies. At a hawkwatch It's very hard to maintain focus to ID every bird, the things going on there can be very distracting - I totally agree with Jerrys' comment.

April 22, 2014 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Talk about putting me on the spot!

I'd love to clarify something…identifying accipiters, or any other birds for that matter, as they are released and fly by closely is much different than identifying birds in bad light, or birds at the limit of sight, etc. So, do I think I identified every bird correctly I ever saw as a hawk counter? NO WAY! And nobody can!!!! So, did I score 100% on the tested birds? Yes, but that is irrelevant.

Did I age accipiters as SY or ASY correctly in flight? Yes, BUT I only called out the ones I felt sure of (which was not 100% of the birds). I am a little scared that rumors are out there about me. Some I have heard are complimentary, some are half true, and some are false. But, that was another time, and anything I do now is with the purpose of teaching and sharing, and I am happy to share on the blog. One more thing, I was asked by certain bird observatories to take an educated guess on birds I was unsure of instead of putting unknown in the data. So, I did so, but I had unidentified raptors at every hawk count I ever did! And regardless of any of this, I watch hawks because I love the birds and love watching them move! I will be doing ID workshops this year for HawkWatch International, and I'm going to stress that having a good time is the main goal along with learning. So come join me and watch me make mistakes all day but still have fun!

April 22, 2014 at 2:50 PM  
Anonymous Derek Lyon said...

I love the hawks and love watching them move too! I just have this self imposed thing were I want to call out the correct ID every time. I get complaints that often the bird has passed by before my call comes. I remember when I first got into hawkwatching I found it frustrating learning to ID the birds, and it helped knowing what the bird actually was. So now, it's a self imposed thing, I always try to get the ID right. It's tiring, especially after a long day, and I think the 'fun' part is slipping away now (for me anyway).

April 23, 2014 at 4:47 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

I agree Derek, I was responding to Anonymous

I love the ID aspect of course!!!! That is part of the fun. Hope we get to watch together one day...

April 23, 2014 at 6:49 AM  

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