Category Archives: Cooper’s Hawk

Separating Juvenile Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks

Fall. Accipiters. Confusion. It is that time of year when juvenile accipiters, in particular Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk, show up in our backyards and have us scratching our heads as to which species it is.


A year ago I put the above image up on facebook and asked which of the two accipiter’s it was – Cooper’s or Sharpie?  The replies were overwhelmingly (and correctly) for Sharpie – “sharpie based on the structure and, especially, the slender legs”, ” slender tarsi, general structure and the patterning all say sharpie”, “not only are those shins sharp, but the belly streaking is heavier and extends further down than a Cooper’s.”


In the above composite image we can compare a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk (on the left) to a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk (on the right). When they are shown side by side, even though they are in slightly different postures, one can see differences, making it easier to work out which is which, rather than when viewing an individual bird.

  • The eye looks larger and more foreward in the head on the smaller headed Sharpie.
  • There is a noticeable dark stripe on the throat of the Cooper’s.
  • The colour of the breast pattern – dark brown on the Cooper’s, and, warm brown on the Sharpie.
  • The narrower and cleaner markings, tear drops thinning out on the belly, on a Cooper’s, versus, heavier or coarser and blurrier markings on the Sharpie.
  • Broad barring on the flanks on the Sharpie.
  • Thick sturdy legs (tarsi) on a Cooper’s while they are delicate and pencil-thin on a Sharpie.
  • Though we can’t see the tail on the Cooper’s, it is usually rounded compared to the squared-off tail of a Sharpie. While that can be easier seen in flight, when posing upright one can see that on a Cooper’s, each tail feathers get shorter towards the outer feather. This gives it a rounded look when it is spread in flight.

By going through these pointers as you study the bird, you should be able to feel confident in your identification of the next juvenile accipiter that challenges you!

PA Young Birders Field Trip: John Heinz NWR at Tinicum

Four young birders and their parents joined Debbie and I for a delightful walk around John Heinz NWR at Tinicum on this very warm morning. Catching the end of the breeding season we found many baby birds outside the nest – fledglings being fed by parents. This included active Orchard Orioles, and two different YellowContinue Reading

One Down Two To Go

On my visit to the Cooper’s Hawk nest this morning I could only see two of the three chicks. The juvenile feathering is almost complete so the birds are about 28 days old, though you can see that the right hand chick (below) still has a downy forehead. Fledging (when they leave the nest) normallyContinue Reading

Active Cooper’s Hawk Chicks

The three Cooper’s Hawk chicks were very active this morning.  They are growing very rapidly and in need of more space than the nest affords.  They were stretching their wings, wandering about the edge of the nest and even branching out (left bird).  Their mother was perched a few feet below the nest and mayContinue Reading

Three Cooper’s Hawk Chicks

The immature female Cooper’s Hawk and her mate have done well to raise three chicks. All three look healthy. One of them, possibly the oldest was standing up behind and to the left of the nest, moving about and stretching its wings. You can see that they all have immature brown feathers coming in, asContinue Reading

Breeding Immature Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s Hawks are found throughout the US and they have become more numerous in recent years in the Delaware Valley. These woodland raptors sport powerful rounded wings and a long tail, enabling them to maneuver with ease through the forest in pursuit of birds and small mammals. As with all raptors there is a sizeContinue Reading

Bird ID: “Mystery Hawk at my Birdbath”

My friend and fellow club member Sue Killeen sent me these photos along with the heading “Mystery Hawk at my Birdbath” in the hopes that I could identifying it. Sue lives in a very wooded area near French Creek State Park in PA (corner of Berks, Montgomery and Chester Counties). She wrote…… “It is aboutContinue Reading

My Cooper’s Hawk was back!

I am doing my spring cleaning and getting stuff ready for a big yard sale (scheduled for June 20 if anyone is interested). As I carried trash outside this morning “my” Cooper’s Hawk flew past. I knew he was in the area regularly. I have had glimpses of him recently — mostly low fly-bys. TheContinue Reading

Birding everywhere…

Birds are everywhere. From the frozen environs of Antarctica to the boiling Sahara Desert, birds can be found all over the world. The highest diversity of species are found in places like Colombia and Peru, places with mountains and coast, desert and forest. Pennsylvania has recorded over 300 species within its borders. Though 300 seemsContinue Reading

An Accipiter and Squirrel Face Off

Today I got to watch a wonderful encounter between an immature Cooper’s Hawk and a Gray Squirrel. There were two squirrels, doing what squirrels do, rummaging about on the grass when I caught sight of a Cooper’s Hawk flying into a nearby tree. The squirrels saw the same thing and froze. Sitting on a branchContinue Reading