Posted by: PMGDD | February 17, 2012

Miramichi Marsh

A frosty morning (Feb 17) at the Miramichi Marsh. Any idea of the identity of the large bird in upper left, as shown below …. had wrong lens with me! To see more frosty photos of MM visit Frosty Marsh

An analysis of the hawk perched on the left and shown in more detail below provided by Dave McLeod:

It looks like an accipiter to me based on the overall profile viewed from the back of the bird.  The tail is relatively long in this perching silhouette, while the wings are relatively short, judging by the extent of the wing tip that can be seen on the left side just below the branch.    You can also with some intense staring detect two darker bands across the tail.  These characteristics are generally the case for all three accipiters known to N.B., ( i.e. the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, and the Northern Goshawk).  A Northern Harrier also has a long tail and would be more the size of the goshawk.  However, it would not have the white supercilium, and the wing tips would extend almost to the tip of the tail.  Unfortunately, the general colouration of the bird is not readily discernible at this distance making it hard to tell the difference between adult or immature plumage.
     Although it is hard to judge its size at that distance without any other reference, my guess is that it is a Sharp-shinned Hawk which is by far the most common accipiter in the province.  A large female would be over 30 cm in length while the next most common accipiter around here would be the Northern Goshawk with the average male to female range being 49 to 58 cm, almost twice as long.  Like the Northern Harrier, the falcon wing, including that of the Merlin, would have been much longer in relation to the tail length with the wing tip reaching much farther down the tail, and the head would have appeared larger relative to the body than for the hawk in your photo. The intermediate-sized Cooper’s Hawk is very improbable around here.  Were you able to get any size impression?
     I think the goshawk (as well the Cooper’s) would have had a larger looking head relative to the body than this one, and as it appears to have its head turned sideways, the goshawk’s broad white supercilium over the eye would have been obvious contrasting with the darker crown and the dark area behind the eye.  In this case the head is dark on the crown and onto the side of the head with a lighter area only visible below the eye in the throat and side of the neck area, suggesting an adult .  In addition, the end of the tail looks to be fairly square-cut favouring the sharp-shinned, whereas a more wedge-shaped tail tip would be expected for a goshawk or a more rounded appearance for a Cooper’s.

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