Hawk right outside home office! (ANSWERED)

Hawk right outside home office! (ANSWERED)


From Stan Moore, at Fairfax Raptor Research:

The hawk is a juvenile Cooper's Hawk.  The plumage + yellow eye indicates a young
bird.  Merlins have dark eyes.  Sharpshins are smaller, have thinner legs and are too
small to catch pigeons.  My guess is that there is a nest nearby and the adult
Cooper's Hawks catch pigeons in the neighborhood and feed them to the young, which is
typical.   Cooper's hawks are common urban nesters, especially in older neighborhoods
with lots of mature trees.   They like the secrecy of a good tree canopy and lots of
neighborhood prey birds due to bird feeders and urban pigeons, etc.

photo with tail feathers

after taking photo, discovered a pile of pigeon feathers. sad…

(click for larger)




We saw one just like that in the Presidio on Sunday…I thought it might be a peregrine falcon. Looked huge up in the Cypress tree.

John Callender

Hm. My initial inclination is to call this an immature Sharp-shinned, based on the rounded crown and "startled" (as opposed to "angry") facial expression. But Cooper's is certainly a possibility as well; distinguishing between the two is a challenge for me.
I'll give this some more study in the morning when I have access to the big Sibley guide, _Raptors of California_, and _Hawks in Flight_ (not that this one is in flight).


They are awesome to see. I thought it was snowing once in my Florida backyard, only to notice a hawk up in the oak tree, ripping apart a dove he'd caught for lunch. Just like "Wild Kingdom" in the yard!


John — it's hard to tell the difference between sharpie and cooper's; cooper's is the common hawk in that area, so I'll go that direction unless I have good evidence otherwise. It seems a really young bird, and seems to be on the smaller side (very subjective) which would also lean towards Coopers.
A quick check of ebird data shows sharp-shinned is basically non-existant in san francisco county in june, so it has to either be a Cooper's or a miracle… They migrate out of the area for the summer.

Craig Newmark

guys, thanks! and note that I found that a blurry photo does have a little tail details.
In any case, I appreciate it a lot!

John Callender

Ah, cool. Thanks.
Yeah, I tend to ID a lot of birds by range. :-) I know birds move around, and rarities and vagrants are always a possibility, but in a situation like this, I'd be comfortable calling it a Cooper's unless shown to be a Sharp-shinned by something pretty conclusive.

Neil in Chicago

Pigeons are an excessively renewable resource.
The more raptors the better, in several ways.

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