Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Visit of a Small Hawk in our Yard

Bird feeder was very quiet last Thursday morning. Didn't make any mind of it until looking out the back window I saw this little hawk. It looks smaller than a rock pigeon. Definitely smaller than a Crow.  While it was perched at sunrise it would periodically and rapidly flick its tail back and forth like an inverted windshield wiper as seen at this distant perch. It was as if it was waking up. At the time there was very little other activity in the yard.  I know that it was too large to be a kestrel or sparrow hawk. 
Its size made me think that it was a merlin of the falcon family but it didn't have the characteristic side burns. I have at least seven different bird guides thankfully and each describes the same bird in slightly different ways which is often very helpful. I relied on my initial three bird guides by Sibley, Audubon and the Royal Ontario Museum and none were really of much help since they did not give enough information to distinguish the characteristics of this bird. By the odd colouring I thought that it might be a Juvenile cooper's, or sharp-shinned. The colours say maybe a northern goshawk but it is very small for a goshawk.
At this point I hadn't found nor bothered to find the other bird guides, and proceeded to post the following two pictures 
on Facebook to see if any friends could identify them. Before the day was up a friend forwarded these picture to his avid birder friend and by the end of the day came back with a molting Sharp-Shinned Hawk [Accipiter Striatus].
I later found another bird guide by Kaufman that much more clearly confirmed this identification as a juvenile Sharp-shinned. It showed a very good semblance of the white spotted back of this bird and I have scanned the page out of the book for the reader's benefit. It is from Field Guide to Birds of North America by Kenn Kaufman, 2000, Houghton Mifflin Company, ISBN 0-618-13219-8.   I think this pretty much confirms the identification although the colours of the breast feathers were softer and never showed the sharper and more distinct brown and white pattern.