Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cool as a Cooper's

Exciting news from the backyard this week: after careful study, consultation with Bill Fenimore, and more than a little research, I've concluded that this year's mystery hawk is a juvenile Cooper's hawk. I'm thrilled, as my earlier hawk visitors have most definately been sharp shinned hawks, but from the outset this one looked different. Not so much in general coloration - though the slight red tinge on the cheek and the differences in the spotting are clues - but the fact that this bird just seemed immediately larger and with a longer tail, thicker legs, and larger head.

It is a joy to watch juvenile hawks, however; they're so certain of what they need to do (catch birds) but so clumsy as to how they go about it. This one, whom I've christened Dart, landed in the yard on the birdbath, then wondered why the birds were gone. She strutted around the birdbath for several minutes, still looking both hungry and confused, before flying to the back fence and waiting concealed by overhanging branches. She's not patient, however, and after just a bit of waiting flew off beyond the fence, then later to another yard. She's a fine, big bird, however, and will undoubtedly find her dinner eventually.

I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to observe her (and I use the gender pronoun randomly - last year's sharp shinned hawk, Spook, I'd christened male), since this month is Raptor Month on my About.com site and I am planning a feature on telling the difference between sharp shinned and Cooper's hawks. Be sure to sign up for the free weekly newsletter for all the raptor happenings!

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