Tag Archive | hawks in calgary

Wednesday Wings: Bathing Merlin

If you’ve taken any pictures of interesting birds in the Calgary region, you can share them with us by emailing birdscalgary@gmail.com and we may post them on the blog.

Dave Arnold took these great shots of a Merlin having his Sunday bath on the edge of the Bow River.  Thanks for sharing, Dave!

Ian Chatt also witnessed this and got these three photos:

Another Sharp-shinned Hawk

Recently both Pat and Dan have posted about Sharp-shinned Hawks in their yard.  Now it’s my turn.  Last week we had our first ever accipiter in our SE Calgary yard, a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk that stopped here briefly.

It took me a while to figure out whether it was a Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s Hawk, but it actually is almost identical to the one Pat posted about here and here, and which was identified as a juvenile Sharp-shinned.  The bird that Dan saw was an adult, and you can read about it here.

The hawk was followed by about forty Black-billed Magpies, but they didn’t mob it.  While it sat on our fence, they just kept their distance in a nearby poplar.  But when the hawk left, they followed.

About twenty of the magpies that were following the hawk.

Unlike Dan’s hawk, my bird didn’t take any of the hundred or so small birds that were around my feeders at the time.  It just rested on the fence for three or four minutes, then flew off, and I haven’t seen it again.

Gus Yaki saw these pictures and said that he believes he has seen this same individual several times this autumn and winter in Fish Creek Park and along the Bow River.  It is distinctive because of the prominent white tips to the back feathers, which is unusual in this species.

A view of the bird’s back, showing large white areas on the feather tips.

It was certainly exciting to see this bird, even if it was only for a few minutes, and it’s one more species for the yard list.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Schoolyard Swainson’s

Last July, right before I moved to Texas, I was treated to an incredible sight: a dark-morph Swainson’s Hawk perched on a fence in a school parking lot. This hawk was incredibly close to the sidewalk and allowed for some great photos, all the while sitting calmly on its perch.

 This hawk didn’t seem to be injured, it just seemed to be very tolerant of people. Supposedly, Swainson’s Hawks are accepting of human activity and tolerate even more in areas where this activity is more frequent. This species will often become accustomed to disturbance from humans, thus the higher level of tolerability. This hawk, however did still seem to be giving me the evil eye!

After a couple minutes, the impressive raptor, slowly turned away (above) and resumed its activities as if I wasn’t even there.

This is not the first time this year that a Swainson’s Hawk has allowed me to get very close to it, back in May, while we bloggers were doing the Big Sit, we observed a Swainson’s that allowed us to watch it from merely several feet away https://birdscalgary.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/swainsons-hawk/.

This was definitely one of the cooler birding parts of the summer!

Posted by Matthew Sim

Juvenile Raptor Identified

Thank you all for your comments on my yard hawk!

The juvenile Cooper’s/Sharp-shinned conundrum is one of the greatest challenges in bird watching. The species are so similar that often a positive ID cannot be made when you see the bird for just a few minutes. In the winter months, you can add juvenile Northern Goshawk to the possibilities as well. With the additional help of photographs that can be pored over, feather by feather, it then becomes a matter of working your way through the bird guides.

I write for three different bird blogs, and when I was lucky enough to capture this beautiful hawk in pictures, I posted to all three, leaving the identification up to the readers. Guesses included Merlin, Swainson’s, Osprey, Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned and Northern Goshawk.

Consensus is…a Sharp-shinned hawk. Here are the reasons given.

  • Young sharpies have yellow eyes, while young Coopers have light yellow to almost pearly white eyes. Your bird has distinctly yellow eyes.
  • based on size, as compared to the shepherds hook and feeder, the bird seems Sharpie-sized
  • coarse brown streaks on the breast and belly
  • thinner legs than on a Cooper’s and narrow white tip on the tail feathers
  • smaller head and neck than a Cooper’s
  • pale eyebrow, narrow white tip on tail
  • Coopers have thicker white band on tail tip
  • Immature Cooper’s have whiter, more finely streaked breast
  • Sharpie’s have brown upper parts with white spots along scapulars
  • Cooper’s tend to have warmer brown napes, where yours has a darker nape
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk, based on the straight tail bars
  • wing-tips in relation to the length of the tail – Sharp-shinned Hawks wing-tips end just posterior to the hips.
  • undertail coverts on Goshawk have dark streaks

Now that I’ve gone through all this, I have absolutely no confidence that next time I see one of these birds, I’ll be able to identify it! They are just too tricky, but do provide a wonderful challenge for birdwatchers to tackle. However, I did find a fantastic website to help with the Cooper’s Hawk vs Sharp-shinned identification puzzle, so next time I’ll know where to look.

Posted by Pat Bumstead

Sunday Showcase: Young Swainson’s Hawk

Rob English was fortunate enough to capture these stunning shots of a young Swainson’s hawk hunting grasshoppers. He took them in Hulls’ Wood, Fish Creek Park in early September. He says the bird hung around the area for about three days, and showed no fear. His wife named him “Mr. Personality.” Thanks so much for sharing these Rob! Click to enlarge. 

Sunday Showcase: Osprey With Lunch

Rob English has sent us this absolutely stunning sequence of photographs he took at Bankside in Fish Creek Park. (Click to enlarge.)