Cooper’s Hawk

To identify a hawk “on the wing,” the first thing to look at is the length of its tail.

We have three common hawk species in our area: Red-shouldered Hawks (as I’ve been photographing for the past few weeks), Red-tailed Hawks, and Cooper’s Hawks. The Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks belong to the genus Buteo. They’re larger, stockier hawks, with shorter tails.

Cooper’s Hawks belong to the genus Accipiter. These hawks are slightly smaller and sleeker, having noticeably longer tails. There is another accipiter found in our area: the Sharp-shinned Hawk; they are almost indistinguishable from Cooper’s Hawk, but they’re much less common. If you see a long-tailed hawk flying low through the shrubs and trees of your neighborhood, chances are it’s a Cooper’s Hawk.

I saw this one this morning. It flew quite close to me as I walked away from my house. It disappeared behind a neighbor’s house and I figured that was the last I would see of it. (I considered myself lucky to catch the glimpse that I did.)

More luckily, two or three houses down the street, the hawk flew out from between two houses and alit in a Crape Myrtle, right on the street. I took a couple of quick pictures, then walked slowly down the street to get a clear shot. The male Cooper’s Hawk stayed in the shrub long enough for me to get a couple of good pictures, then took off between the houses across the street. I can tell it’s a male from the color of the back of its head and nape of its neck.

OK. Technically, this isn’t from “around the pond” (and neither is the Barred Owl I see from time-to-time), but it’s close enough.

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