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Hawk vs. Dove

It’s not what you think. I saw our wintering hawk (see Mystery Bird) several more times and studied him in the book my friend Nancy showed me, a new illustrated guide by David Sibley (which I promptly bought).

The difference between the sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks is size, and confusingly, their range of sizes may overlap. Our bird is the smaller of the two. He, and actually it is more likely she (as females in this kind of bird are larger than males), is a bit larger than the 11-inch official size, but she is not much more than 12, not 13 inches, and not even close to the 15 or 16 inches that would be more normal for a Cooper’s hawk. And yet the plumage is mature, with clear horizontal striping on the breast. As a final note of confirmation, I notice that Sibley describes the sharp-shinned hawk as saying “kew kew kew,” and I heard that the day I took the pictures. I noted it as a mewing sound.

Anyway, the sharp-shinned hawk is officially only a bit longer than a white-winged dove, and I got pictures of both in roughly the same part of the yard. I worked a bit at comparing branches and trunks and perspectives, and I think I have come up with a reasonably to-scale comparison:

Hawk and dove

We’re talking about length, which includes the tail down to the tip. The dove’s body is much slenderer, and the 10-11 inches would include a good bit of finely tapering tail. The line of the dove’s body is less vertical, too. but I think you can see that this hawk is just a bit longer than the dove. Sharp-shinned it is. Case closed.

A Raccoon in the Garden


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