Hawk in our Backyard

At breakfast this morning, my wife saw a large brown bird swooping through our backyard, flying below our 6-foot fence. She looked out and saw this brown bird sitting in our backyard. We’ve seen a hawk chasing a dove through our backyard before, but we hadn’t gotten a picture.

After consulting Cornell’s All About Birds, we thought it’s a juvenile Cooper’s hawk. The hawk has

  • Rounded tail
  • Banded tail, with broad white terminal tail band
  • Yellow Eye

A neighbor thinks the bird is a sharp-shinned hawk. She’s probably right.

From All About Birds, “Cooper’s Hawks are notoriously difficult to separate from Sharp-shinned Hawks.” All About Birds compares juveniles:

comparing a sharp-shinned hawk and a Cooper's hawk
comparing a sharp-shinned hawk and a Cooper’s hawk, from All About Birds

Here’s a second photo of the hawk in our backyard.

Cooper's hawk (click to enlarge)
sharp-shinned hawk or Cooper’s hawk (click to enlarge)

We live in Los Altos, a suburb in the south San Francisco Bay Area. Seeing raptors at home is rare and a big deal for us. We’ve slowly progressed from our first hawk photo, to a hawk roosting down the street, to a return visit.

There’s ghosting around the bird in the photos. Through past, sorry experiences, I learned to take some photos first, before trying for the best photo. The best angle to see the hawk was through a screen door. I was able to take a half-dozen photos through the screen door before the hawk flew off. Our screen door squeaks loudly when we slide it open, so we probably would have missed taking any photos if we had slid the screen door open first. It’s better to get some pictures and then improve on them, instead of trying for the best picture and perhaps missing any pictures.

With the ghosted photos, we were able to use it to identify the hawk. Not knowing hawks, we wouldn’t have been able to identify the bird before it flew away. The ghosted photos helped us get smarter but they doesn’t pass as a very good photograph. More things to work on for the future!

Here’s an uncropped image without the screen door in the way. This photo is clear, so shooting through the screen door caused the image ghosting.

shooting through screen door caused ghosting
shooting through screen door caused ghosting



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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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