Since the Great Backyard Bird Count begins today I thought it might be helpful to provide some resources for identifying hawks and other raptors. Raptors include hawks, eagles, falcons, and owls–they birds of prey that predate on animals and other birds. One of the most difficult hawk identifications is distinguishing between Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks which look very much alike. And these two hawks are the most often found at feeders since they often take feeder birds. The bird on the left is an adult Cooper’s Hawk while the photo below to the right is an adult Sharp-shinned Hawk–can you tell them apart?
Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Feeder Watch website has a page just for explaining how to tell these two hawks apart. Other raptors can pose identification challenges.
The videos below, provided by Peterson Field Guides, provides not only an a very informative overview of raptors but a lot of interesting information about the various families of raptors as well as clues to identification. Just don’t get too bogged down in the details of identification–if you can’t identify all the birds you see, that is ok. It is important to have fun.
And here is a more detailed video on advanced raptor identification by Peterson Field Guides provides guidelines and a discussion of specific field marks for a number of species.