Hawks in Albuquerque
Albuquerque hawks, right in the middle of the city, are common. The part of Albuquerque in which I live is known for its high concentration of Cooper’s hawks here in the “urban forest.” in August of 2014 I had a prolonged encounter in my back yard with a young Cooper’s hawk. Since that time, it has been easy to just consider similar appearing hawks to be Cooper’s hawks. This year, however, it has become clear that I am being visited regularly by a beautiful sharp shinned hawk. Not that they are always easy to tell apart, but I am relatively certain that the images I am going to post first are of a sharp shinned hawk, and, given the relatively large size, probably female.
This hawk has been seen often in the past month or so. I now managed a good look, and feel comfortable with the identification as a sharp shinned hawk.
These now are some images of a juvenile Cooper’s hawk, with whom I had an extended encounter of August 2014. Part of that encounter was an impressive display of some type, which I have documented elsewhere. At the time I took it to be a territorial display (which it might have been), but I’ve also come to wonder if this juvenile was also putting on a courting display. I’m showing parts of that as individual images, because it allows the viewer to see the underparts in some detail, although from a somewhat unusual perspective as the hawk “mooned” me. 🙂
In this first image, note the pattern on the tail feathers.
These images probably make you wonder, “what is so difficult about telling them apart?” In many ways they really do look alike. A female sharp shinned can be as large as a male Cooper’s. Adults and juveniles of both have different appearances. But, if you are fortunate to have them periodically drop into your back yard, differentiating them becomes – sometimes – a little easier.
Keep in mind that this is a juvenile Cooper’s hawk and an adult sharp shinned hawk. But, note the shape of the head; the relative lengths of the neck; the position of the eyes. Some of the other differences you see here may be related as much to differences in maturity as much as to real differences between the two, but I think the differences are pretty striking when someone has the luxury of seeing them for a few minutes as opposed to passing through overhead in flight. The sharp shinned hawk seems to go for the small song birds. The Cooper’s seems to prefer doves, and this is a difference that has been noted by others as well.
One thing is for sure: the “urban forest” of Albuquerque, along with the bird feeders placed by residents, make an attractive environment for hawks. I am thrilled to know I have had two different kinds of hawks visit me. Just one more thing I love about living in Albuquerque!