Sunday, January 31, 2010

How to Tell the Difference between a Cooper's Hawk and a Sharp-shinned Hawk, Big News on the Fire Escape, Phoenix, and the CCNY and Tulsa Hawks

Photo by Cheryl Cavert
Here are some recent photographs from hawkwatcher and photographer Cheryl Cavert of Kay and Jay Red-tailed Hawk going about their business.

Photo by Cheryl Cavert

Photo by Cheryl Cavert

Photo by Cheryl Cavert
Sitting in a typical bonded configuration, they wouldn't want anyone sneaking up on them from either direction, the Tulsa KJRH TV Red-tails. I'm thinking that is Kay with her back turned and Jay, with the very pale brow facing us.

Photo by Cheryl Cavert
Jay on the left and Kay on the right.

Photo by James O'Brien,

The City College of New York Male
A correction of his former information from James O'Brien on a previous post of the day, Flash! 2, next post down--

This is not Norman....
(Do check out James' photos on flickr.)
The two hawks I had above the Dwyer today and on Shepard's Hall are a mated pair, but are not Norman and Isolde. Why do I think this? Both these hawks are molting in what looks to be their 8th primary. The hawks on the Great Hill the other day were not molting at all...that pair, and the one on top of Douglass Houses on Amsterdam Ave are N and I. Will they reclaim the Cathedral or what seemed to be their site from last year, the Douglass Houses?

Photograph by Francois Portmann
A grand comparison photo from Francois concerning how to tell a Sharpie and a Coop apart, he says--

Here are 2 pics (Not to scale!!) of a Cooper’s Hawk left and a Sharp-shinned Hawk on the right, both immature birds.
In addition to the square tail, the sharpie shows blurrier streaks than the Coop.

Okay let's recap--
1. A Sharpie has a blunt edged tail and a Cooper's has a rounded tail. How do I remember that? Well, back in the day a man who made barrels was called a cooper. Barrels are curved and so is the tail of a Cooper's Hawk.

2. Francois observes that an immature Sharpie has more "blurred" belly streaks than those on a Cooper's.

3. John Blakeman always says that a Sharpie looks like it has no neck. And in these photos you can see what he means.

4. There is a size difference between the two, but unless you see them together, and as they over lap, this one is tough to be definitive about unless you see one at either end of the size continuum. A Sharpie comes in the 10 to 14 inch size. And a Coop is 14 to 20 inches.

Now if we could just tell who was a female and who was a male in immature Accipiters...

I received an email from reader Mai Stewart, asking after Phoenix, the hawk injured while roosting when a plane crashed nearby, and in particular wondering about what would be the state of her feathers and how long it would take for her to recover, if she did. I sent it off to premier wildlife rehabilitator Bobby Horvath and here is his response--

Hi Donna,

Wow, its a miracle the bird survived and still being in critical condition has a long ,long road to recovery. Stabilizing it with meds ,fluids ,and easily digestible nutrition is what's recommended for now.
Who knows if there is internal damage as well if the bird breathed much smoke or high heated air while escaping the immediate fire area? If it survives the next molt starting late spring, early summer may be delayed due to its debilitated condition and I would bet it will need another years molt as well since there may be severe follicle damage .

The first molt won't necessarily replace a whole body full of feathers . Its possible that the feathers may never grow in properly either.
The eye lids are another issue. Its too early to tell if there is vision damage or if the eye lids , nictitating membranes , or tear ducts have been permanently damaged.

This poor bird has a lot going on with it right now. I wish them good luck. Challenging cases like this seem to bring out the best in rehabbers and maybe other sources nearby could lend their support as well if available, including an eye specialist .

Redtails are extremely hardy birds and have the ability to overcome many obstacles other more sensitive species cannot while under rehab.

Bobby, thank you so much for sharing your expertise, particularly about Phoenix's future when it comes to feathers. We're very lucky to have you!

Photo courtesy of

An Update from Ken Zommer of Chicago, who originally sent the news about Phoenix--

There is a video of the WTTW (PBS) Chicago Tonight story on the burned hawk as well as pictures at:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Rising from the Ashes
In the midst of Saturday night's Sugar Grove plane crash that regretfully claimed the lives of two Florida men, stood the remnants of a large hawk. Phoenix, as she is now known, is believed to be a female Red-tailed Hawk that miraculously survived the fireball which engulfed her while she was sleeping in a tree near the crash site.

Burned beyond positive species identification, Phoenix was recovered by Kane County Animal Control and was promptly transferred to Flint Creek Wildlife for emergency care. Since that time four nights ago, she has been receiving around-the-clock care for her injuries.

She has demonstrated an inspiring spirit and resilience. Although her recovery time will be long, Phoenix stands a good chance of making a full recovery and being released back to the wild to soar once again.

Please keep her in your thoughts and visit our website at if you are able to contribute to help offset the costs of her care.

Our sincerest appreciation to Kane County Animal Control and the sheriff's deputy who first spotted Phoenix standing in the snow near the plane wreckage.


Don't miss the first posts of today, next two posts down, with very interesting news about Isolde and Norman and the CCNY Red-tails.

1 comment:

Karen Anne said...

Flint Creek Wildlife, which is caring for the fire-hurt hawk, is the same place that is caring for the hawk who was caught on the front of a train and trapped for a thousand miles or so. I didn't realize that until I read their blog.