There’s a hawk in the Library of Congress. No, not the war-favoring political kind. The kind with wings and whatnot.
I can’t tell you how cool I think this is. I love hawks. We have hawks at our house – Cooper’s, sharp-shinned, red-tailed and red-shouldered for sure. Oh. Wait. A lot of people don’t know their hawks. Let me help you.
Cooper’s Hawk (like the one in the Library)
Sharp-shinned hawk (pic taken from my great room window. This one was less than a foot from me through the window)
Red-shouldered hawk (I used to have a great pic of a red-shoulder eating a dove in the snow in my backyard, but I can’t find it!)
And a red-tailed hawk. This one is a light one, but red-tailed hawks have many color morphs.
Some things about these hawks. First, if you want to identify whatever bird is hanging out in your trees or bushes, check out Cornell’s online identification guide. Next, on to our four. You’ll notice that they have similar coloring, so identification isn’t always easy. The first thing is size. Sharp-shinned hawks are small hawks, about the size of a large blue jay, maybe 10-14″ long. The females are much larger than the males and are often difficult to distinguish from Cooper’s hawks. The sharp-shinned hawk has a very square tail, though, where the Cooper’s has a rounded tail. The Cooper’s is a bit larger (14-20″), about the size of a crow.
Red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks are larger. Red-shoulders are slightly smaller than red-tailed (16-24″), and have distinctive red streaking at the shoulders. Red-taileds (18-24″) have streaking on the underside, but its more toward the middle and less at the shoulders. Additionally, in flight the distinctive red tail is a very big hint. Red-tailed hawks are extremely common and if you see a hawk, odds are good it’s a red-tail.
In my experience, the red-shouldered, Cooper’s and sharp-shinned all hang out in the trees. They wait for some unsuspecting bit of yum and dive bomb from above. The red-tail hawks tend to hang out across the street by the power easement waiting for a mouse or bunny to make a break across the open terrain.
I like birds in general, and I love hawks. In fact, raptors were the major inspiration for the bird-winged aliens in Twice as High. So when I saw this story, I decided to share. What about you? Do you dig hawks?