Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Novice Eyes

Our novice eyes have been trying to see some difference between the two hawks that showed up on two separate days over the weekend.

When we looked out the window on Saturday and saw the large hawk on top of the birdfeeder, we immediately thought Cooper's Hawk. It had all the signs we've read to look for: its general size (14-20 inches), its long tail, its dark cap rather than hood. We surmised that it was an adult because of its dazzling red eyes.

The distance between the top of the post to just below the metal fastener on the post is 12 inches. We calculated size based on that measurement. The Cooper's Hawk is 14 inches. The distance between the wooden suet feeder arm and top of the post is 6.5 inches. The Sharp-shinned is 10.5 inches.

When we looked out the window on Sunday we saw this little hawk standing on the the piece of wood that holds the suet feeder. We had not seen such a small hawk before. It's only 10.5 inches from head to tail. It shares the same coloring as the Cooper's Hawk, but we think it has noticeable differences, specifically how very small it is, and the way the dark on its head looks like a hood, rather than a cap. It appears to have a fuller, more robust chest with a higher center of gravity. But it also has those stunning red eyes, which tells us that it too is a mature adult.

There is much discussion about how to identify these hawks. It's never a good idea to rely on size alone. A female Sharp-shinned can grow up to 14 inches, so size might not be a determining factor. We think they look fairly different when seen next to each other, though. What do you think? No matter what, those eyes are pretty spectacular. Definitely enlarge both photos and take a look at those eyes.

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