Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks


You guys all know how much I love to photograph raptors.  I have posted many images of Red-tailed Hawks several times during the history of this blog.  Today I will feature several photos of the Cooper’s Hawk and of the Sharp-shinned Hawk.  These hawks are some of favorites along side of the red-tailed.  In fact, the sign on the side of my car features a Cooper’s Hawk, as do my business cards.

The following photographs were taken over the past few years.  There is much similarity between the Cooper’s Hawk and the Sharp-shinned Hawk.  The difficulty in making the right ID has me hoping that I made the right choice in naming these.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

On a side note, when I photographed the top image, I was at the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  Sitting next to me, co-incidentally, was Jim Miller, a fellow blogger and photographer from San Antonio, Texas.  Somewhere in his files, he has a photo nearly identical to mine.

The following is an image that I believe to be a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  You can see and understand the difficulty in identifying these two species.  I am sure that there will be letters and controversy after I post this.  It would have been easier if I had a photo of the both of them, sitting side by side.  It would show that the Cooper’s Hawk is a good 5 inches taller than the Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

I was, at first, reluctant to post the last, (above) photo.  Simply because I had clipped the tail.  But upon further consideration, I felt that it was too good an image to just discard it.

So, enjoy the photos.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

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35 thoughts on “Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks

  1. The third “Cooper’s Hawk” (as you’re going down the page) is a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk, as is the hawk deemed “Sharp-shinned Hawk”. Notice the shorter projection of the tail and its finely banded pattern, as well as the barring on the folded wing secondaries.

  2. Bob, if I had to guess the third image is neither a Cooper’s or a Sharpie, the tail is too short for them. In Sharpies and Cooper’s the wing tips are well above the tip of the tail, that image shows the wingtips nearly reaching the tail, I’d say that bird is a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk. Also the tail banding on the underside would be different with Cooper’s and Sharpies

  3. Nice photos of both species, Bob. And I enjoy the discussion about ID. I too have a very difficult time distinguishing the two species and must admit that I rely to some degree on the fact that Coopers are more common in my area than are sharpies.

  4. Hello Bob,
    I wanted to send you an email but cannot find an adress so I hope you don’t mind me using your comments site.

    Hello Bob,
    My wife and I have visited Big Bend several times in the past and have always stayed at the lodges in the Chisos Basin.
    We are going there again in April but this time, after following your advice, we will be staying at the Far Flung Casitas. I have had a look at the reviews on Trip Advisor and they all agree with you that they are excellent. Some of the reviewers say that it is better to stay in a cabin that faces the road as it is easier to unload/load your car.
    As we are both well into our seventies that advice sounds very attractive but could you please let me know if that is good advice or not or whether access to the other cabins is no problem?
    Keep tweeting as they are always enjoyable to read.
    All the best,
    Dave Hassell.
    (London, UK)

    • Hi Dave, nice to hear from you. If you ask for cabins #1, #2 or #3, you will be by the road and they are much easier to unload from.. Also #7 is pretty easy, and #12, the handicapped cabin, is easy if available. We stayed in #12 the last time. Tell them “i sent you”. 🙂 Have fun. (We have stayed there 4 times, so far).

  5. Hard to tell.In the second photo the eye looks red and the tail is different-a sharpie? I saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk once and luckily was with an expert or never would have known and there was a lot of discussion about the eye and tail. But I am taking a risk here, haven’t checked my guides.Love the photos , Bob-even with the cropped tail. Jane

  6. spent some time in my bird book..i think you have them right..they are tough to distinguish. Excellent photos…I love the one with the cropped tail..adds that touch of mystery to the photo and makes one visualize mentally what the rest of the tail looks like. Great photos …

  7. Great shots, Bob. One way to tell a Sharpie from a Cooper’s is the eye always looks larger in the head on the Sharp-Shinned, which it definitely does in your last photo. The third Cooper’s Hawk photo has me a little confused because the banding on the tail is so pale and the bands aren’t as thick as what I’m used to seeing, but don’t ask me what else I think it looks like, I’m not real good with hawk IDs.

    • Thanks, Lisa, for your great comment. I too, was a little wary of that third photo. I only thought that perhaps, the head looked a bit flatter which is characteristic of a Coopers. However, I may be even imagining that. 🙂

  8. Yeah, shame about the tail, but thanks for letting it make the cut. The one preceding it is my fav! I’ve been seeing what (from a distance) looks like an osprey, but given there’s no water around the area where I see him, I’m wondering if he’s a sharp-shinned. I’ll take my camera bag next time I’m out that way — appears to be a regular there.

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