Friday, November 9, 2012

"Fri-D" - Cooper's Hawk vs. Northern Goshawk

 [Top, juvenile Cooper's Hawk, Cape May Point, NJ, October. Bottom, juvenile Northern Goshawk, Cape May Point, November. Both in more or less shallow glides. Goshawk looks the part. Click to enlarge photos.]

If you weren't sure if it was a Cooper's Hawk or a Northern Goshawk, it was a Cooper's Hawk. There, that's simple, isn't it?

But seriously, Coop's are much more common and Gos' really looks the part. I think many reported Goshawks are Cooper's injected with observer hope, so in part this post is a public service. Believe me, I'm tempted too - who doesn't want to report that big, charismatic northern raptor?

Goshawks are big, buteo size, and Cooper's are not. But let's leave size out of the equation since that admittedly is hard to judge, and female Coop's are pretty big, bigger at least than male Coop's. But compare some other field marks (and I suggest, as usual, moving your eyes back and forth between the photos as you compare each mark):

Streaking: dense, heavy, and throughout the underparts on Gos; finer, lighter, and concentrated on the chest on Cooper's.

Tail: Broad (!), variable shape on Gos; narrow and longer looking on Cooper's.

Body: Heavy and tubular on Gos; slimmer and more tapered on Cooper's.

Head: Perhaps surprisingly, appearing proportionately smaller and sticking out less on Goshawk, mainly because the Goshawk body is so big.

Wing shape: more pointed on Goshawk, which has a tapered "hand." Use a little caution comparing wing shape in these photos, since their not in exactly the same posture.

Seems like it's a good year for Goshawks, with 23 counted through November 6 at the Cape May Hawkwatch. Hope you get one or two or more!

1 comment:

  1. So. I was sure we had a cooper's hawk- filled the description - watched it snatch a robin from the hedge and then take it up to a high branch to pull it apart limb to limb. But now I hear that we have goshawks in our area. Not sure. Still feel good about my I.d. on the Cooper's hawk.