The small birds “freeze” or vanish into the shrubbery when one of these beauties with red-barred breast and blue back comes to perch on a winter day in the lilac over our bird feeder or when the striped young ones pause to circle low overhead in their southward passage in mid-September.
The short rounded wings and long barred tail mark this as one of the Accipiter hawks.
The small size and square-ended tail
separate this from the somewhat larger Cooper’s Hawk which has a rounded tail (but the Sharp-shinned Hawk’s tail will also look rounded when it is fanned when circling overhead).
A large female Sharp-shinned Hawk may approach the size of a small male Cooper’s Hawk but in general the Sharp-shin is a pigeon-sized bird while the Cooper’s is crow-sized.
In the breeding season the Sharp-shin is usually found in coniferous forest while the Cooper’s prefers deciduous woodland.
Dr. J. Murray Speirs