Heh! Sharpie vs Cooper is the single most difficult ID among raptor
enthusiasts, so no shame if you got it wrong-- if you did! Actual
raptor experts might have a different take than Zach and I do.
Experienced hawkwatchers have been known to literally come to blows over
the ID. But... I doubt it. I'm an enthusiast of many years, not an
I wouldn't rely on the "bug-eyed" look since it depends so much on the
angle of the bird and the picture and the familiarity of the observer
with these guys. But the tail feather length in such a clear pose as
you got (not always the case in photos in the field!) is truly
definitive, as is the thickness of the legs, when you can see them.
Banders have wildly different bands for Coops and Sharpies, and once I
saw those, I was totally convinced of the dramatic difference between
the 2 species, not just variation from individual to individual. Pretty
much everything else is more impressionistic, so not really reliable for
ID, only as contributing factors that can very easily lead the observer
One other factor to consider is that although there are more Coops
around than there used to be, Sharpies still outnumber them by quite a
bit. So Sharpie is the default ID for a smallish Accipeter, and an ID of
Cooper's needs more confirmation from observable characteristics like
leg size and tail feather lengths.
Resist the ebird police! But do let us know here if you get interesting
feedback, positive or negative, OK?
On 10/15/2018 8:25 PM, Cynthia Crawford wrote:
> On Mon, 15 Oct 2018 09:01:54 -0400, Jane Stein <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> Agreed, Zach. The tail feathers, despite the broad white tips, are the
>> main tip-off-- all the same length. In this tail position, Coop's has
>> noticeably shorter outer tail feathers. The relatively small, bug-eyed
>> head is another. Chest streaking is harder to judge, for me anyway,
>> because it's not that consistent from bird to bird.
>> It does look large and chesty for a Sharpie, but that may be the lack of
>> context from this close, since it's impossible to tell from the photos
>> how large those branches and trunks are. And a big female Sharpies can
>> be pretty close to male Coop's in size. Lastly, I'd add this bird's
>> rather thin, stick-like legs, although there's only a glimpse of them in
>> the one pic that shows the bird lifting off from its branch, as
>> contrasted with the Coop's thick, sturdy-looking legs. The Coop often
>> chases prey on foot, whereas the Sharpie rarely does, so the difference
>> in the evolution of leg size actually has a purpose.
>> On 10/15/2018 7:35 AM, zach schwartz-weinstein wrote:
>>> Sharpie, with the messier reddish streaking, bug-eyed appearance, small
>>> head and bill, and even-length tail feathers. Nice photos.
>>> On Mon, Oct 15, 2018 at 7:33 AM Veer Frost <
>>> [log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>> Gorgeous, thank you, hope someone will know.Veer Frost, Passumpsic
>>>> On October 14, 2018 at 9:55 PM, "cynthia crawford" wrote:Got some
>>>> pretty good pictures- pretty sure this is a Cooper's. Opinions
>>>> Cynthia Crawford
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> Thanks Zach and Jane- appreciate your thoughts. I noticed the thin legs/feet especially, but felt the head was a bit large. Perhaps because of the extended neck photo. I wasn't aware of the "bug-eyed" feature for Sharpies, so that's helpful. I think I will report it as a sharpie and see if I get corrected by the ebird "police". ;).