Posted by: atowhee | December 15, 2021


Is this bold and brash behavior proper for an accipiter? Twice today a Sharpie came through our place, lookin’ for a meal. No healthy siskin or junco would be surprised by this:

I had to get all these umages through various windows. This Sharp-shinned Hawjk was behimd the house, in frojnt of the house, clearly visible, never hidden, never close to catching a small bird. But thsi was an illustrated short course on accipiter looks: the nthin legs and squared off tail required to qualify as a Sharpie, not a Coop. In one image you see the bold white feathers behind the legs. Those feathers are on the bird’s lower end, beneath the tail and are to insulate legs and talons against the cold. They are especially dense and fluffy this time of year. Bigger the accipiter, bigger the white insulators. Once I got to view a pair of Goshawks from above. We were on the top of a cliff ijn the Cascades, looking down from the edge of a highway over a wooded canyon. Just above the trees, a couple feet below our feet soared a pair of hunting goshawks. Their white puffs showed clearly outside the width of the long tails. It was their distinctive field mark at that distance.

Those puffs can misleasd if you don’t scan the rest of the bird. I once had a loud-mouthed know-it-all yell “harrier” to our birding group as a long-tailed reptor sped past us, just above grass tops and landed inside one of the many oaks in the open forest where we were birding. There was not a marsh or open field nearby. It was a Coop with his bold white insulators on display in January. The loud-mouth just “knew” that any hawk with white around the tail “must” be a harrier. And he mostly wanted to show off. In an oak forest? Disappearing into a tree? I tried not to be too condescending to the loud-mouth as I informed our group about accipiters and their built-in foot muffs for warmth. Later we got the scope on the Coop for a confirming view–black skull cap, no facial discs, etc. etc. etc.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
12 species. Dec. 15, 2021

Mourning Dove  2
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  4
American Crow  X
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  1
Pine Siskin  20
Lesser Goldfinch  1
American Goldfinch  5
Dark-eyed Junco  40
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1

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