Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper's Hawk

Over the past couple weeks I happened to get a couple decent in-flight photos of two species of hawk very difficult to distinguish: Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper's Hawk. The first photo is a Sharp-shinned Hawk I photographed flying over Nalle Bunny Run Wildlife Preserve on 1/9/2021. The second is a Cooper's Hawk flying over Lake Creek Trail in northwest Austin on 1/16/2021. The main differences these photos show are the angle of the wings and size of the heads. The Sharp-shinned often holds its wings pitched just a little bit forward and has a smaller head, protruding out in front of the wings less. The Cooper's usually has wings held more straightly out to the sides and has a larger head protruding out in front of the wings more.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

So why are these two species so similar?

I can only speculate. They have similar ecological niches, both specializing in hunting other birds in the woods. So they both have broad, rounded wings and long tails. Why such similar plumage? They may have also had a common ancestor, and speciated as two different populations found slightly different specialization.

Posted by mikaelb mikaelb, January 18, 2021 15:56

Observations

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Sharp-shinned Hawk Accipiter striatus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

January 9, 2021 10:13 AM CST

Description

Taken while recording the January virtual bird walk on Hill Country Conservancy's Nalle Bunny Run wildlife preserve.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii

Observer

mikaelb

Date

January 16, 2021 09:38 AM CST

Description

Taken on Lake Creek Trail in Williamson County.

Comments

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Nice comparison and description. Thank you!

Posted by sawwhet 5 months ago (Flag)
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Thanks Susan! I realized I had the two recent photos and thought they made a good opportunity to write a little bit about them.

Posted by mikaelb 5 months ago (Flag)

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