As luck would have it, later in the morning he was still hanging around. He’d moved further away up the hillside, but at least the brighter light allowed me to catch his markings better in my photo. (Yes, look. An actual live bird photo at left!)
Compare this picture with the National Geographic 2014 photo contest winning picture of a Cooper’s hawk. Do you think it’s a match? I’m no expert, but maybe!
A friend and I saw what we thought was a Cooper’s hawk a few weeks ago while walking one of the wonderful trials out at Prime Desert Woodland Preserve. (If you get a chance, check out this great park just north of Avenue L on 35th Street West in Lancaster, CA.) To our novice birdwatcher eyes, our fellow trailblazer looked a lot like the picture of a Cooper’s hawk in the visitors’ center.
So, when I spotted my avian neighbor this morning, perched at the top very of a very tall Coulter pine tree, I thought, “Cooper’s Hawk? Or maybe red tailed hawk? How do you tell?'
I need to find a bird-watching group to hang out with and learn. My interest is outreaching my knowledge at an alarming rate! But the learning is what makes things fun!
1/4/2016 UPDATE -- I showed my photo to the raptor expert at the Raptor Free-Flight show at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. She says it's a red-tailed hawk not a Cooper's hawk. Ok, I'll buy it. I've definitely seen red-tailed hawks in flight around here. They're easier to distinguish when you can see their tails. I love it when they scream out in flight (listen here), but then I'm not a bunny or a mouse running for dear life.
BTW, the raptor expert agreed with my identification of the dead bird in the last post as a Merlin or Pigeon Hawk. One out of two. Room for improvement, but not hopeless.