I've written about the Interior Live Oak gracing our side yard, an arboreal specimen of great stature attracting diverse bird life, and apparently humans as well. A while ago, two guys from Boston were out front peering into the branches. I greeted them and they said they were staying with friends around the corner and had read about this "famous" tree on some blog.
We had a good laugh and proceeded to spot, in ten minutes, a dozen birds, including a Bewick's Wren, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, and some kind of sparrow. I've seen Northern Mockingbirds, Downy Woodpeckers, Lesser Goldfinches, and Sharp-shinned Hawks. Or so I suspect. Over a year ago, what I thought was a Sharp-shinned came zooming in to land on a branch, perching there for several minutes. Come to think of it, he may have been a Cooper's Hawk. Tough to tell, but yesterday, two small forest hawks appeared and flapped and squawked about for several intermittent hours in the big thick branches of the 100 year old tree.
The two hawks - Sharp-shinned and Cooper's - should be easy to differentiate in theory, but in practice, it's tough to tell them apart, at least in my practice. The pair were definitively juveniles - so where's mom and pop? - so that's one level of distinction between the two species, as well as the Sharp-shinned being smaller, tucking in his head, sporting a squared off tail, and blotched with broad streaks; whereas the (juvenile) Cooper's is larger, has a rounded tail tip, and has finer streaks on white breast. Still, knowing all this, positively identifying these two visitors took twenty minutes of perusing two hard-bound field guides and two web resource sites before concluding, what may have been obvious to YOU all along, that they were a pair of juvenile Cooper's Hawks.
Can anyone prove differently?
I wonder if these guys were out on a foray on their own, learning the ropes, told to go kill something to eat? Or that transmitted instinct telling them it's time to do so. The adults were nowhere to be seen, so this was a real pop quiz for the boys. Presuming they were boys, the two small, handsome accipiters put on quite a show throughout most of the morning and early afternoon, emitting high-pitched caws and flopping about from branch to branch. Eye and ear candy for the sweet-toothed urban bird fiend.