Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Can you ID this hawk?

My husband and I have been watching hawks, and we're perplexed. Perhaps you can help us identify our mystery hawk.

We live on a suburban cul de sac on a hilltop in the Bay Area; the other side of our street borders an open space area. Besides a major updraft from the steep hill, there's one other factor that draws hawks to our neighborhood: quail...lots of them.

Several years ago one of our neighbors released some quail into the neighborhood. They thrived. They prospered. And, boy, did they multiply!

Now, we have mobs of quail. (I know...groups of quail are supposed to be called coveys, but I swear we have mobs. If you don't believe me, you should see my front yard garden...or what used to be my front garden, until the quail pock-holed it with their dusting craters and ate all my thyme and all the other small-leaved edgers. Now I tell people it's not so much a garden as great quail habitat.)

We really enjoy watching the quail, so I guess the garden damage is a fair trade-off. And, honestly, if it's not the quail destroying my garden, it's gonna be the deer, the rabbits and the gophers. This is tough territory for gardeners.

The hawks, though, are a bonus. What I really like is seeing a hawk first thing in the morning, perched on the railing of our back deck or in a nearby tree, just waiting for the quail to make their daily migration over our roof to the shelter of my shrubby front yard.

I've never seen a hawk catch one yet, but I have seen tell-tale clusters of quail feathers on the ground in my front yard. No wonder they're so flighty.

My husband and I have consulted multiple bird books and a couple of web sites, but we're still not sure what kind of hawk it is. Our best guess is a juvenile Goshawk (apparently the juveniles have yellow eyes; adults have red eyes), but it could also be a Cooper's Hawk.

If you think you can identify it, please leave a comment.


Maman said...

Are you sure that it is not a golden eagle... they are considerably smaller than regular eagles...

It was great to meet you at BlogHer, by the way!

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is Newell_Post a.k.a. Mr. McCunications. We're pretty sure it's not a golden eagle. The photo doesn't show the shape of the head and beak well. However, in real life you can see the bird is shaped like a falcon, not an eagle. That makes it one of the accipter hawks such as goshawk or cooper's. (I think.)

Anonymous said...

Is it a red-tail hawk?

camccune said...

I don't think so. The red tail is usually quite noticeable, and this hawk is more brown, gray and tan with speckling on across a buff-colored chest. We'll have to try to get some more photos...if we can get him/her to stay still for a moment.