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Coopers Hawk vs. Sharp Shinned Hawk

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by breezy, Feb 19, 2009.

  1. breezy

    breezy Songster

    Jan 7, 2009
    Sand Coulee MT
    Not wanting to start any kerfuffle over the hawk thread that was closed..... I did want to ask a question. Can anyone give me a clear idea of the difference between a coopers and a sharp shinned hawk? I have had a raptor that looks like the one in the pic on the closed thread bathing in my turtle pond in my backyard but I thought it was a sharp shinned hawk. I had that confirmed by one of my clients, a retired fish and game guy, who said he was pretty sure it was a sharpie but that they look a lot like a coopers. So how exactly does one tell the difference? Are the sharp shins as likely to take a chicken as the coopers?
    How about kestrals? I have never seen one take anything larger than a sparrow or a finch off of my feeder but now Im wondering if I have to worry about the pair living the in the tree next door.
    I am planning on getting pretty large chickens........... kind of leaning towards Australorps thanks to all the advice here so I was thinking I didnt have to worry about the sharp shin but now Im thinking differently.

  2. merry hens

    merry hens In the Brooder

    Jan 18, 2009

    I've had both coopers and sharp shinned prey on my chickens and pigeons. They both look almost identical at first glance, but once youve seen the differences they are pretty easy to tell apart. Sharp shinned is a little smaller in comparison, and if you can get a glance of your hawk flying away from behind, note the shape of the tail tip. Sharp shins have a square tail tip, while coopers is rounded. Also, coopers hawks have more of a black crown on the top of their head above their eyes. Its more defined and stands out. It helps to look at some pictures, if you have a bird guide, or here:

    sharp shined hawk: (note the square tail shape):


    Coopers hawk: (rounded tail):


    The juveniles and sometimes the males can be much harder to tell apart.

    They both eat about the same things. From my experience, they both generally tend to stay away from the larger chickens, its the bantams and young birds you have to worry about. But they are especially good at chasing down birds like pigeons in air, and Ive had them gore pigeons through 1 inch wire too. Ruthless killers but amazing birds nonetheless.

    Ive never heard of anyone having kestrels pose a threat to their chickens. We have some nearby too and they dont seem the least bit interested in my birds.

    Sorry about the long post. I hope it helps though.

  3. breezy

    breezy Songster

    Jan 7, 2009
    Sand Coulee MT
    Thanks. That is helpful. I have a couple of bird books that have both drawings and color photos and I swear I couldn't see any difference till you spoke about the tail. I looked at the pic on my cell that I took and it is a sharp shinned. The pic is blurry since the little bugger had just bathed in the pond and it was shaking its feathers out and its tail shape is clear to see.
    I usually have plenty of wild pigeons big enough to roast at my feeder, and the only time I ever saw them spook was when my little bathing friend showed up for a drink in the pond .They just kind of exploded in a flurry of wings and feathers as they all bolted out of the yard. Now I know why he was such a threat.

    Edited because my spelling sucks...sorry
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2009
  4. Faverolle

    Faverolle Songster

    Feb 12, 2009
    Quote:I think Merry hens touched on many of the differences but for the most part coopers are generally larger and more barrel shaped with a large head for its size while the sharp shin has a heavier upper body and smaller, thinner lower body. They are both pretty hard to identify at a quick glace and often a large female sharp shin can be the same size or larger then a male coopers.
  5. scooter147

    scooter147 Songster

    Jul 30, 2008
    The cooper that hangs around my house does not mess with my standard breed chickens, as a matter of fact they are not afraid of him in the least.
    This cooper goes after the wild birds around my feeder and coop and I have seen him go after a bantam once but he was unsuccessful.
    My standard hens and my rooster chase the cooper hawk off if he lands on the ground.
    This is my experience.
  6. swampwander

    swampwander Songster

    Oct 1, 2008
    Mims, Fl
  7. merry hens

    merry hens In the Brooder

    Jan 18, 2009
    Quote:Good link, thanks.

  8. DDRanch

    DDRanch Songster

    Feb 15, 2008
    Good info the the differences here. I want to add a note about kestrels. The family of kestrels in my back yard will alert me, and the hens, when hawks are present and will dive them and chase them off. They annoy the hawks no end and are quite relentless. The kestrels have never presented a problem with my larger breeds. They are very welcome residents.
  9. dlottman

    dlottman Hatching

    Nov 23, 2010
    The hawk that hangs around my hen house seems to only be after the occasional mouse or rat
  10. Oregon Blues

    Oregon Blues Crowing

    Apr 14, 2011
    Central Oregon
    You are lucky to have a family of kestrels. They are much too small to bother chickens, but they will help to control the sparrows that steal your chicken food.

    I suppose it is vaguely possible that a Kestrel might try for a day old chick if the Kestrel is really hungry. Generally, I don't worry about them and am glad to have them show up at my place.

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