Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A Visit from a Small Raptor

Sunday, while Kris was off at Pilates, our patio was visited by a very neat-looking bird, very elegantly turned out from the neatly hooked beat, dull red shirt front and short pants (with a blue plastic marker on the right leg) to the long tail with dark and light broad stripe, and a little white trim.
From 2009
He (or she) returned Tuesday; when I talked it over with building management, they mentioned there was a nest up in the eves of another part of the building.

According to our birdie friend Jeanelle:
"It's either a Sharp-Shinned Hawk or a Cooper's Hawk. Sharpies have pencil-like legs; Coops have thicker legs. Coops have a larger terminal white tail band and tail has rounded corners, whereas Sharpies have a very narrow terminal white tail band and the tail tip has slighty rounded corners.

I'm guessing (just guessing) from the relative size in the photo, it's a Coopers. But these two species are notoriously difficult to tell apart. If when watching it, and it raised its hackles on the back of the head, giving the head a more squarish appearance, that is also a field mark for the Coopers. From the photo, the head appears a little more squarish than rounded (at least to me!)

These are the "true" hawks, known as Accipiters (Family Accipitridae, Genus Accipiter). They are diurnal (hunting day and night) forest raptors, capable of rapid acceleration; very agile and reckless when pursuing prey. Common for both Sharpies and Coops to be attracted to back yards with feeders, where they can more easily pick off an unsuspecting prey. Sharpies generally like more densely vegetated areas and they pretty much eat other birds. Coops will often hunt more open habitat and although they prefer birds, they will eat small mammals, and lizards if available. Coops are also more 'still' hunters, perching and waiting to attack, sometimes conspicuously. Sharpies are more shy."
This one was definitely not shy; on Tuesday it just watched while I retrieved the hummingbird feeder (not visible in photo).

It was fun to see a little more environmental complexity in our city, and it sure was a surprise!

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