Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Raptor in the yard!



There are a lot of squawks in our yard, but this one caught my attention with its brevity. I chased the sound to the top of our oak tree just in time to see a heavy, long-tailed bird flap off. I thought it might be a grouse. Later, I heard the call again, and saw a pair of the birds swoop around the house. Not grouse, for sure. Birds of prey.

That was over the weekend. Today the squawking bird greeted us as we got home from work. Not only did he sit on a snag long enough for Chris to find the telephoto lens, he didn't seem put off by my son, who was busy dumping handfuls of dirt into his toy wheelbarrow. Perhaps the bird was eying Gabe as a potential meal.

I'm no birder. Is this a Cooper's hawk, perhaps? It's about the size of a crow. The pitch of its size matches the calls that can be heard here at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the individual "squawks" match the description of the "kik" call that the male makes to tell the female where he is.

But then again, it could be a sharp-shinned hawk:

"Separating Sharp-shinned Hawks from Cooper's Hawks is one of the classic birding challenges. The birds look very similar and can be similarly sized. Cooper's Hawks have a larger head that juts farther out ahead of the wings compared with Sharp-shinned's pinhead. Cooper's have "hackles" that are sometimes raised, giving them a fierce look versus Sharp-shinned's more timid, round head. Adults have a pale nape, making them look like they're wearing a dark cap. Juvenile Cooper's Hawks are more finely streaked below than Sharp-shinned. When perched, look for Cooper's Hawk's thicker legs and big feet."

For some reason I thought identifying large predatory birds would be easier than identifying obscure plants. Sheesh.


Diana/ Garden on the Edge said...

Determining size of birds can be tricky yet size is the best way I've found to tell Coopers and Sharpies apart. A large Coopers is unmistakable since she can get quite large (crow sized is a good description), likewise small Sharpies are distinct since he can be about the size of a blue jay. It's the mid-range, the male Coopers and the female Sharpies that have overlapping sizes. I've known experienced birders who can supposedly tell by the shape of the head but not me.

So I'm no help here. Your bird does look like it has a full crop, though (that means it has eaten recently but hasn't finished digesting). Both Coopers and Sharpies eat other birds so you may find fewer visitors to your feeders for a while.

What a fun visitor to the garden.

Anonymous said...

Wow! He is so cool! He reminds me of "Horus," the bird Michelle and I wanted to get a snapshot of this past Christmas in Michigan. Still haven't been able to get a photo of him yet!

Michelle said...

He was actually finishing off dinner when we arrived, so good call on the full crop Diana. This bird wasn't quite full grown crow sized, but was pretty close in my estimation.

Do they eat field mice? We have a fair number of those.

I hope you get a picture sometime soon Gilly, I really want to see Horus. I was sad I never saw him when we were visiting.

Michelle said...

I see Chris has posted as me. ;D Thank you for visiting Diana and Gilli!