Nature clicks #196 - Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk  

There has been a story about this hawk already before I even was able to make this photo. During the last couple weeks two of our Downy Woodpeckers were the victims of a deadly attack by this accipiter. I witnessed one of them but couldn’t identify the raptor. The remains of another little Downy told me that the hawk had struck again this week. Sharp-shinned Hawks feed on smaller birds and are attracted to bird feeders if they are visible from the air. Well, we offer them paradise here… ;-)

Today it paid back that I have the camera ready to shoot most of the time. I saw the bird flying into our front yard while sitting at my desk. It landed on a low branch but I had a hard time to focus because it showed me its back and there were little branches that obstructed the view. I took several shots, more for identification than anything else. Suddenly the hawk flew up again to a taller tree. I run upstairs back to my office window. And there it was! The Sharp-shinned Hawk sat on a branch just across from the window and showed me its front side in best light.

I like to mention that there is of course a little doubt about the identification of this bird. The Cooper’s Hawk is very similar and I read even experienced birders may have problems to identify them sometimes. There is great variation in plumage and in size for these two species. The tail of this hawk is more square while the the tail of the Cooper’s Hawk has more rounded tips. A couple other field marks (shape of the head and leg size) make me believe that we see the Sharp-shinned Hawk. It would be nice if a more experienced birder could give me their opinion.

This was the first time that I was able to make an image of the Sharp-shinned Hawk and the first “first sighting” in 2014. I’m very happy about this photo and I hope you enjoy it too.