stymied, looks like a cooper's on steroids

calliopeFebruary 14, 2014

We have right at the moment what I thought was the largest Cooper's Hawk I'd ever seen. (S)he's been hanging around by our little spring-fed pond, across the drive from our kitchen window. I have NEVER seen a hawk this size, and we've had coopers here for years, who come check out our bird feeders regularly, so know them pretty well. It's at least one half again as large as the largest hawk, to perhaps twice the size. I'm really wondering if there is a chance it's an immature bald eagle. We have them in the vicinity, a friend has a nesting pair at the edge of her property. The back of this bird is brown, with random whitish blotches, the tail seems too short for a Cooper. It appears to be disinterested in the birds at the feeder, and they don't seem to be bothered by it. Hello? All hades breaks loose when the Cooper's appear. It's upper chest is streaked, but more implied blotchy streaks and the belly is white. I have pictures, but through the window and with the exposure they're not good and there is no way to show a reference to size on this. That's what is confusing me. It's huge. I've not seen in on wing yet, was looking away when it was in flight to various points. It sat by the pond and drank. Help? S. E. Appalachian Ohio.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

By your description sounds like a third or fourth year immature eagle. But I have seen a few young red tailed hawks this year that are bigger then any I have seen before also

    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 4:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I want to thank you very much for your reply. We observed this bird for quite awhile, and took as many mental notes as we could and after having looked it up in our reference material, and compared it to what we saw........I think you nailed it. It definitely was NOT our typical Cooper's Hawk and it's the first one we've seen during our daily winter bird observing. All the benchmarks match to red tailed hawk, and of course it is in our winter range. I am logging it as such in our data.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 5:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Did it look like this? This is a juvenile eagle! We saw over 100 eagles in NWA last month!! AWESOME!!! More than I've seen in my life time and I'm 68!!

This post was edited by sorie6 on Fri, Feb 14, 14 at 18:31

    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 6:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Or a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk:


    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 8:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Very interesting. Last week I saw what was probably a Cooper's Hawk feasting on what looked like a dove on a neighbor's walkway. Today I caught a glimpse of another large bird glide into the neighbor's tree and spend time sitting on a large branch, appearing to be eating something. The bird was mostly hidden by the trunk, but the back and tail I was able to get a look at didn't quite look like the Cooper's, no stripes and brownish rather than grayish.

I'll be keeping my eyes open...


    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 9:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This view shows it as well as I could capture it, and I'd say Red tail.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 12:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It's back, and just took a fish out of our pond, sitting on a concrete statue looking to take another.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 4:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Calliope, the bird in your photo is a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk. The shape of the bird, along with the streaked upper chest and heavy upperwing markings all point to a first-year Red-shouldered. In your range in winter, your Buteo options are limited. It's not a Bald Eagle, and it's not a Red-tailed.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 6:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That is one heck of an adept hunter, considering its young age. Check out this link I have included. It shows an adult Red-shouldered fishing. Amazing. Neat to hear it's happening on your property. Unusual, given the time of the year. I must ask, though, are you certain you are seeing the same bird every time? Bald Eagles fish regularly. Red-shouldereds not so much. Your photograph clearly shows a Red-shouldered. They really aren't that big. About 15-17 inches or so, whereas a Bald Eagle is 27-33 inches.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 6:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you for your input and this is why I'm asking for help. This is not a small bird. It's the largest hawk-like bird I've seen other than eagles at a distance or vultures. It was the size that first drew my attention to it. On our property, we always get Cooper's hawks. They make nearly a daily hunt at our feeder area so am very familiar with their sizing and this particular bird is easily half again as large as the largest Cooper's I've seen, perhaps twice that size. It is ALWAYS drawn to the pond, totally ignores the birds at the feeders, and they do not appear afraid of it, and instead of flushing from their cover (vines on old trees and large junipers around the feeders) just go about their business. Yes, it's the same bird each time. I'm not seeing one bird take the fish and photographing the other. It was eating the fish when we got the photo below. We are under a very heavy snow cover and rural, with lots of ponds in the area but since our rivers are frozen over, it's a given the ponds are too. Water and fish would be scarce and lots of animals are drawn to our pond since the heavy spring flow keeps it thawed almost perpetually. I could appreciate a fishing bird showing up here under these circumstances when it wouldn't normally frequent our property. The feathers on the back of this bird are dark, with only blotches of white when its back is to you, there is no pattern you can discern other than the faintest suggestion of a barred tail and it's is a muddy brown/grey over dark grey. I'm not looking for a 'rare' bird, but accuracy since I submit birding data and I'd sure like to get this one correct, or I'd just have to log it as unknown.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 7:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Any other front-facing photos? Even a bad-quality one would be helpful. I am really trying to make sure that upper chest is streaked as it appears to be in the first photo. I actually know hawks very well. I wouldn't lead you astray. It's just that NO BUTEO is twice the size of a Coop unless we're talking a small male Coop (15 inches) and a large female Ferruginous (27 inches). So I have to kind of reel you in a bit. Size is very difficult to judge in the field, as I have learned the hard way myself. You certainly have a Buteo in these photos. Buteo proportions are different from an Accipiter, so even if the length from bill to tail is similar, the Buteo will seem so much larger due to bulk and a shorter tail (a good portion of a Cooper's overall length is due to its long tail).

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 11:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I figured you knew your birds of prey well, and yes........size is VERY difficult to get a grasp on, especially when the typical landmarks are obliterated by snow and there isn't another bird next to it for comparison. I can tell you it is sufficiently larger than a cooper's hawk or I would not have bothered to take a second look at it. And, we I have seen Cooper's of all sizes from large females to quite juvenile. My camera will not 'pull in' the light like my binocs will. We tried to slip outside so get a better shot at it, but can't be nimble in this snow and ice, and it took wing when my mate got closer and headed directly to a nearby narrow grotto between trees over a stream bed, obliterating a good line of sight on underwings, or their size or shape. If he didn't really scare it, hopefully it will be back for more sushi today and we'll give it another try.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 1:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here you go, TMMF

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 8:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you all for your assistance. I feel like I really learned something because of it. Red shoulder is not a hawk I would have even considered until you mentioned it, and I did get a chance to really have a good look at the patterning on the tail feathers and it seems to validate your opinion, TMMF. There were few bars, and they were quite broad with the dark bands predominating. I also think you were right about its overall body shape making it seem so large. The Coopers go right into the tangle of vines and foliage by the feeders after the other birds, and perhaps the birds reacted to this one so casually becaused they sensed this hawk wouldn't attempt that.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 5:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It is a nice Red-shouldered for sure. I agree with your assessment. This is a nice bird to have hanging around! And while Red-shouldereds will occasionally chase the songbirds too, they don't (as far as I know) QUITE go to the crazy lengths an Accipiter will to get a kill. Hence the different body shape/proportions. The shorter wings and longer tail of an Accipiter lets it maneuver through woods and turn on a dime.

I think your young Red-shouldered has acquired quite a special survival skill. Hope it doesn't run your pond dry!


This post was edited by TMFF on Wed, Feb 19, 14 at 18:58

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 5:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I appreciate the niche hawks fill in our fauna, and winters such as this give me concern for their well being. I don't begrudge it a few fish at all. I was a gardener by profession and appreciate the rodent control the owls and hawks provide here, and also enjoy their beauty. About ten years ago, many large fish disappeared from the same pond, and we sort of chalked it up to racoons or even green heron, as we've also seen them in the trees over the pond. Now seeing this one take fish so adeptly, I'm not so sure. More power to him.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 7:46AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Paint for bird fountain
I need to paint a bird fountain. Is there a safe paint?...
Cindy Wright
blue jay love peanuts why do i never see the steller Jay?
here is some blue jay picture yes having fun and any...
Revisiting How to Keep Swallows From Building Nests...
on my porch eaves. I asked this innocent question last...
taking over my suet feeders
The sparrows, grackles and starlings are taking over...
Old member - new to the birdwatching forum
I've been on Gardenweb since 2003, and lurked on this...
Sponsored Products
Paradox Brushed Nickel 27" Wide 5-Light Chandelier
Lamps Plus
Devonshire Oil Rubbed Bronze 52-Inch Indoor/Outdoor Ceiling Fan
$299.00 | Bellacor
Zuo Modern Umea Arm Chair Island Blue [Set of 2]
Beyond Stores
Area Rug: Pleasant Floral Black 5' 3" x 7' 7"
Home Depot
Gigi Trails Rug 4' x 6'
$899.00 | Horchow
Large Canon Sectional
Opulent Items
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™