Cooper's Hawks with "skinny legs?"

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 

How many Cooper's Hawk photos have you seen identified as Sharp-shinned Hawks based on their "skinny legs?" I know I have seen too many! Do Sharp-shinned Hawks have skinny legs….of course. But, Cooper's can have skinny legs as well (especially males). Here are a few photos of Cooper's Hawks, check out the legs on each and decide for yourself if you would be able to ID them based on leg thickness only. Besides, there are many other traits that are more useful in separating the 2 species (i.e. head shape and size, plumage, tail length and shape, etc.). Oh yeah, be careful of using the large-eyed vs. small-eyed look as well, it can be tricky. "Click" on photos to enlarge.
Blogger Rich Adney said...

Great photos Jerry, after reading your "Hawks" books I stick to trusting tail length and shape. Being a Raptorphile and photographer, I have learned to never trust my first instinct! I have been fooled and fooled myself way too many times to jump to a quick conclusion when it comes to similar species. I use your guides and the experience of others at this point in my raptor study and identification.

May 9, 2013 at 7:52 PM  
Anonymous Pete Gustas said...

Good topic. The it has "skinny lrgs" has always bothered me, way too vague to use as an ID point. The adult coop on the post is a great example. I think if you had just showed the legs and not the whole bird,many of us would have been fooled!
Looking forward to learning more raptor ID and information from this site.
Thanks, Pete Gustas

May 10, 2013 at 4:28 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...


Glad you liked the post, and happy to hear you like my books. The tail length / shape is one of the best traits to look at, I agree!


I agree, it is such a misinterpreted trait....way too often. Thanks for the note buddy!

May 10, 2013 at 7:59 AM  
Blogger DWM said...

Agreed, but recently a photo I took set-up a discussion about "skinney legs" which I will send to you. I first ID the bird as Coopers, then changed to Sharp-shinned based more on head and tail shape. The legs look great but not skinney or are they?

November 27, 2013 at 7:51 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Send it along Daryll, happy to check it out

November 27, 2013 at 7:58 AM  

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