West Seattle wildlife: Mystery bird sighting; ID help requested

Every so often, it’s time for a round of “Name That Bird,” and this one is requested by Kate, who shared the photo, saying she can’t deduce what this bird is: “I’d be grateful; my identification books are letting me down. I think this is a Cooper’s Hawk- maybe Sharp Shinned?” (We couldn’t tell by checking photos online.)

16 Replies to "West Seattle wildlife: Mystery bird sighting; ID help requested"

  • MMB December 10, 2011 (6:45 am)

    The white spots on the back are confusing. But I vote Sharp-Shinned because Cooper’s hawks have wider white bands on the ends of their tails. For me the SS vs. Cooper’s question has been an exercise in futility. If only they would sit still and maybe strike a couple of nice poses for you!

  • Candace McCutcheon December 10, 2011 (7:06 am)

    If I’m not mistaken, that bird that you have inquired about, looks like it may possibly be a juvenile Merlin Falcon. We have had them nesting in our Victory Heights neighborhood in Northeast Seattle for the past few years. You can look at a picture of one on this website link:


    I hope this is helpful. Please excuse any and all typos…I’m dyslexic!

    Thank you,

    Candace McCutcheon

  • John Commeree December 10, 2011 (7:52 am)

    Found a similar image online identified as sharp-shinned. http://www.christinevadai.com/SSHA.jpg

  • kate December 10, 2011 (8:39 am)

    I thought he might be a young Merlin, too. But then I went back and forth on Cooper’s vs Sharp-Shinned. Those white spots are throwing me for a loop, though….. none of my books mention, or show, spots like that. Thanks WSB for posting and thanks for everyone’s response.

  • Kayak Alki December 10, 2011 (8:40 am)

    If the size of a jay with squared off tail, its a sharp-shinned hawk. If it is size of a crow with a rounded off tail, it is a coopers hawk. Hard to tell from this photo. Cool though.
    See http://www.birdweb.org

  • kate December 10, 2011 (8:46 am)

    HI Kayak Alki- He’s small- no taller than a foot; maybe 8″ inches. He was bathing in our small waterfall/pond and then hopped on the branch to sun himself. I took lots of pictures. I have a great photo of his tail and back, but the tail was all fanned out so I couldn’t tell if it was rounded or squared.

  • StringCheese December 10, 2011 (10:22 am)

    Without a doubt, it’s a SS! Your picture could be the twin of the one in my bird book (Birds of the Puget Sound Region by RW Morse).


  • Lura Ercolano December 10, 2011 (2:04 pm)

    I googled sharp-shinned hawk and “white spots”, and up popped the Wikipedia page for that hawk saying, and I quote, “Often, a few more or less random white spots can be seen on the back. ”
    Also, http://www.allaboutbirds.org, on their page about the sharp-shinned hawk, the 9th image shows a bird with white spots almost exactly like these.

  • elma December 10, 2011 (3:06 pm)

    My husband is curious– in what part of WS did you spot this bird? (I know you said your back yard.)

  • kate December 10, 2011 (3:10 pm)

    Hi Elma,

    I live right off of Beach Dr south of Jacobsen- near Mee Kwa Mooks.

  • HunterG December 10, 2011 (5:57 pm)

    If had had to choose what it *most* looks like from an above link, I would say a Sharp-Shinned hawk

  • MMB December 11, 2011 (12:27 pm)

    I think we have several of these SS hawks in West Seattle. Early last summer I think some fledged near our house (Arbor Heights near Fauntleroy Park). Every day for several days I’d come home to find one in each of two big evergreens, sitting in plain sight, screaming at each other. It seemed as if they were learning to fly, and not a little nervous about leaving the nest. I’ve seen more of these birds the past few years than I used to. One flew right past me recently, in pursuit of a junco. They really are cool birds – miniature little hawks.

  • Austin December 11, 2011 (5:44 pm)

    I have a book that would say it is a Coopers Hawk in the Juvenile Years.

  • Amalia December 12, 2011 (10:22 am)

    Sharpie, based on previous comments and my own favorite field mark, smaller head than Cooper’s in comparison to body.

  • Simone December 31, 2011 (11:20 pm)

    Hi guys, coopers in my opinion because it does not have the bug eyed look of the sharpie (because of the lack of the supra orbital ridge). Also at least a year old bird because of the orange chest feathers. I live w a coopers hawk (falconer) and this looks a lot like my bird. Hard to tell 100% of course. Sharpies also have “matchstick thin” legs.

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