|When it comes to e-mails that I receive for identification, Cooper's Hawks (Accipiter cooperii) and Sharp-shinned Hawks (Accipiter striatus) represent the most common species that I receive. That is because they are backyard bird hunters, scoping out feeders for songbirds. Both species are common on the eastern plains of Colorado, with Cooper's Hawks found year round and Sharp-shinned Hawks most common during the winter months. "Coops" are larger than "sharpies," with more of a barrel shaped body (top heavy body for the sharpie), more of a hawk-like appearance (dove-like appearance for the sharpie), darker crown as an adult that contrasts with the lighter gray upperside (more uniform grey for the sharpie), and a more rounded tail when it is fanned (more of a spatula shape for the sharpie). There are many more details that separate the Cooper's Hawk from the Sharp-shinned Hawk, and when you see enough of them, most individuals may be correctly identified. I start this section with some photos of Cooper's Hawks, and unfortunately, all of them are juvenile birds that are not as good at hiding and avoiding detection. I hope to add some adult Cooper's Hawks when I find some that are not camera shy.|
Compare the last Cooper's Hawk photo with the first Sharp-shinned Hawk photo. Both are juvenile birds where the body and head proportions may be compared. Notice the small head of the Sharp-shinned Hawk, smaller beak and feet, thinner legs, and more "bug-eyed" appearance of the sharpie. The photos following the first one are mature sharpies.
The final Colorado Accipiter is the Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). As a mature bird (after their first molt), they are a stunningly patterned grey bird, much different looking than the other two Colorado Accipiters. Goshawks are also the largest of the three. They are found in densely wooded areas, and therefore, not likely to be found in urban or suburban areas like the coops and sharpies. They are masters of avoiding detection, so a Goshawk encounter is one to appreciate! Occasionally during the winter, they will be spotted at lower elevations in suburban environments.