Raptor Wednesday

In winter, my eyes are always looking for the anomalies in trees. There are plastic bags and balloons, unfortunately, as well as the more welcome clumps of leaves from old squirrel dreys, and sagging Baltimore Oriole nests persisting past their usefulness (at least to birds), and big footballs of paper made by wasps. And then, sometimes, there are the silhouettes of raptors. This Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), for instance. Most of the Coops I see are juveniles, browner with lots of white flecking on the back and having vertical markings on the front, not this red. This is an adult, or sub-adult. The eyes, for instance, aren’t quite the red of an adult (juveniles will have yellow eyes). A second year bird, perhaps? 

From May through September, I didn’t see an Accipiter (baring Sparrowhawks in Sweden). Do they nest in the city at all? Yes: Staten Island and the Bronx have records for Cooper’s. Sharp-shinned were recorded breeding a little farther out, on Long Island, in the first state breeding bird atlas 1980-1985, but not the second, 2000-2005.

I thought I saw a Sharpie the other day, flying, but I didn’t have binoculars. I was reminded that my sightings of perched Sharpie’s are quite limited. The male is about the size of a Blue Jay, the female a little bigger, so this is one little hawk. My one excellent view, through a window in Massachusetts, stays with me because I couldn’t believe that that hawk shape could get so petit.

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