Apr 19 2011

Falcon or Hawk?

Published by at 7:30 am under Birds of Prey,Peregrines


Last Thursday at lunchtime a bird of prey caused quite a stir in downtown Pittsburgh when it perched on a light fixture and very publicly ate a pigeon.

Katie Cunningham sent me photographs of the bird and asked, “Is this a falcon or a hawk?”  She guessed it was a hawk and she was right (it’s an immature red-tailed hawk) but how could she be sure it’s not a peregrine?

Telling the difference between a falcon and a hawk is a common identification problem, so common that people often ask me for help.

Today I’ll tell you how to identify the birds yourself.

Right off the bat I’m going to narrow the scope.  In western Pennsylvania you can see up to nine hawk and three falcon species depending on time of year and habitat.   To make this manageable I’ll address the most common identification question faced by city folks:  Is this bird a peregrine falcon or a red-tailed hawk?

First, ask yourself several key questions.

Is it a bird of prey?  Birds of prey eat meat so they have hooked beaks (see the tip of the beak) and talons (big claws).  If the bird does not have these features it’s neither a falcon nor a hawk and you can stop right there.

What time of year is it?  Peregrines and red-tails live in western Pennsylvania year round so the time of year doesn’t eliminate either bird due to migration.  However identification is more challenging in June and early July when the juvenile peregrines are flying around town.

Where is the bird?  In what habitat?  Is it in the city on a building? (Could be either a peregrine or a red-tail)  In the suburbs? (likely a red-tailed hawk)  On a bridge? (likely a peregrine)  On a light pole over the highway? (likely a red-tail)  In a tree?  (likely a red-tail)  Standing on your picnic table? (likely a red-tail)  Standing on the ground?  (likely a red-tail)  …But if it’s June a juvenile peregrine might be found in some of the “red-tail” places.

Is the bird in the human zone?  Is the bird perched close to humans?  If so, it’s likely to be a red-tailed hawk  …but is it June?

What does it look like?

Red-tailed hawks are bigger than crows.  They are white on their chests and speckled brown on their heads, faces, wings and backs.  Their throats are white but their faces are brown all the way to their shoulders.  They have brown hash mark stripes on their bellies (low, between their legs).  Only adult red-tailed hawks have rusty red tails. Juveniles have brown tails with horizontal stripes.

Adult peregrines are smaller than red-tailed hawks, about the size of a crow but bulkier.  Adult peregrines are charcoal gray and white.  Their backs, wings and heads are charcoal gray, their chests are white and their bellies and legs are heavily striped (horizontally) with dark gray.  Their heads are dark gray and their faces are white with dark gray sideburns called malar stripes.  Peregrines have malar stripes; red-tailed hawks do not.

Here’s a photo comparison of the two:  red-tailed hawk on the left, adult peregrine on the right.

What’s this thing about June?
In June in Pittsburgh juvenile peregrines leave the nest and learn to fly.  Immature peregrines are brown and cream-colored instead of gray and white like the adults.  They have no white on their chests and the stripes on their bellies are vertical instead of horizontal.

Newly fledged juvenile peregrines may do almost anything, including perch in the human zone.  Because they are brown you can’t use those easy color cues you use for adults.

Here is a photo comparison of an immature red-tailed hawk (on the left) versus an immature peregrine (on the right).  Though similar in color, they still look very different.

What is the likelihood of seeing either bird?   Peregrines are rare.  Red-tailed hawks are the most common hawk in North America.  In Allegheny County there are 14 resident peregrine falcons but I’ll wager there are more than 150 resident red-tailed hawks.

So…you’re usually right if you say it’s a red-tail.  You’re unlikely to see a peregrine near ground level in Pittsburgh.  That’s why we get excited about peregrines.

(Red-tailed hawk photo by Katie Cunningham, Peregrine photos by Kim Steininger)

 

p.s.  AUGUST 2013: Many readers have recently asked for help identifying a brown-and-beige-colored bird of prey in their backyards with vertical chest stripes like a juvenile peregrine.  If you have a similar bird in your backyard and it …

  • doesn’t have a pronounced malar stripe on its face
  • is hunting for birds
  • moves so fast it seems high strung
  • jumps on the birds in the bushes and chases them through the trees

… then it’s probably a juvenile Coopers hawk.  They are bird-eating birds of prey that specialize in woodland habitat and hunt in tight spaces.

45 responses so far

45 Responses to “Falcon or Hawk?”

  1. sharon leadbiteron 19 Apr 2011 at 7:58 am

    Where was this at in town? Did it cause a stir for Dori and Louie?

  2. Jennieon 19 Apr 2011 at 8:30 am

    Wonderful information, Kate! Thanks for all the cues to look for and the side by side photos. I can hardly wait for the peregrine eggs to hatch. :-)

  3. Peteron 19 Apr 2011 at 8:34 am

    The Pitt News has certainly had it’s share of troubles…even advertising an opening for a staff ornithologist in the April Fool’s issue. Then they got a shot of a red-tail at the union recently. That was all but two columns of the cover yesterday and across the top in all caps and bold – “THIS IS NOT A FALCON”

    They got the ID right finally!

  4. Kate St. Johnon 19 Apr 2011 at 8:45 am

    This immature red-tail was too close to the ground to upset Dori & Louie. It was about 10 feet up, they’re 400 feet up. …Worlds apart!

  5. Mary Ann Pikeon 19 Apr 2011 at 8:45 am

    My daughter sent me a text yesterday saying that she had just watched a small brown hawk with a speckled breast kill a rodent and eat it in the little park in the center of downtown Erie. She asked me what I thought it was. I’m not really good at identifying birds, even when I can see them (flowers are so much easier to identify! they just sit there and let you look at them). But we have always had a lot of red tails around our house, and I think she would be able to identify a red tail. So I guessed it might be a broad wing hawk, but of course without being able to see it, there is not much of a chance of knowing what it was. I did manage to see a towhee when I was in Boyce Mayview park last Thursday, and I thought I saw an owl flying through the trees, but he was gone before I could get the binoculars on him (but I know owls usually nest in that part of the park). I just can’t find the birds with the binoculars fast enough to get a good look at them, and I have a hard time learning the songs. But I still try.

  6. Patsyon 19 Apr 2011 at 8:50 am

    Kate, thanks very much for the detailed information. Am betting it was a red tail my friend saw.

  7. Marianneon 19 Apr 2011 at 9:26 am

    Great info, Kate!

    I love all of the details! That makes it much easier to i.d. in a hurry!

  8. Donnaon 19 Apr 2011 at 10:41 am

    Thanks for another great blog, Kate! I’m amazed at the diversity of wildlife in the city.

  9. Gintarason 19 Apr 2011 at 6:54 pm

    I’ve taken more confusing while needed to ID – is it RTH or PF:

    http://i559.photobucket.com/albums/ss35/gbmax/4-6-2010/P4067869_1.jpg
    http://i559.photobucket.com/albums/ss35/gbmax/4-6-2010/P4067854_1.jpg
    http://i559.photobucket.com/albums/ss35/gbmax/4-6-2010/P4067863_1.jpg
    http://i559.photobucket.com/albums/ss35/gbmax/4-6-2010/P4067865_1.jpg

    this one had little kinda “sideburns” that peregrines have…

  10. Kate St. Johnon 19 Apr 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Gintaras, interesting face pattern… but not the classic malar stripe. I think of the “sideburns” as giving peregrines a helmeted appearance, like those old Roman helmets that protected the cheeks but exposed the ears.
    Here’s a Roman helmet example: http://i.ehow.com/images/a04/os/8d/roman-armor-facts-800×800.jpg
    Here’s a peregrine example: http://www.wqed.org/birdblog/2011/01/15/webcams-and-a-warning/

  11. Barbara Hanceyon 20 Apr 2011 at 10:58 am

    Hi, Kate,

    Is the website still down? I haven’t been able to get any of the cams since the maintenance takedown yesterday.

  12. Barbara Hanceyon 20 Apr 2011 at 10:59 am

    Also – check out our california peregrines: type in santa cruz with peregrines, and the links to the cameras will come up (San Jose and San Francisco). Both nests have hatched now, and are very active.

  13. Barb Simonon 20 Apr 2011 at 12:05 pm

    How about a Broad-winged Hawk??? This matches the facial pattern and that little yellow patch above the beak.

    http://www.pinebarrensanimals.com/web_images/pix1/broadwingedhawk1.jpg

  14. Kate St. Johnon 20 Apr 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Yes it could be an immature broad-winged hawk. The smaller beak & “sweet” face reminded me of a red-shouldered hawk… which is a lot like a broad-winged. Well, this just goes to show that immature hawks can be difficult to identify!

  15. David Thomason 20 Apr 2011 at 8:31 pm

    I did see a peregrine falcon up close one time, and one time only.

    One day in the fall of 2009, I was going to work in Robinson Twp. (off of Campbell’s Run Road). I stopped the car and got a very up-close look; it was a peregrine falcon (they are such a distinct raptor.)

    I almost went into shock; it looked like it just ate a meal as it was walking slowly up the hill, then it took off eastbound towards the city.

    In that specific area, there are lots of red-tail hawks, so I was quite surprised to see it there.

    A rare treat indeed, and one I will never forget!!!!

  16. lukeon 22 Apr 2011 at 9:36 am

    Maybe this could be one of the two juvenile Red-tailed Hawks I saw in Schenley Park in July. Those two hawks were apparently not afraid of people, as they let me get about three feet away!

  17. Julie Brownon 24 Apr 2011 at 7:18 am

    Hi Kate.

    What a timely discussion of raptor identification, considering that many are in spring migration now. You might be interested to know that we had a Northern Goshawk at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis in late March and early April. It was quite a thrill for many local birders, including me. I was lucky enough to see it and get a photo. Here is the link to a photo taken April 2, if you care to take a look at it:

    http://juliebrown.aminus3.com/image/2011-04-22.html

  18. Steve Aon 22 Aug 2011 at 10:40 am

    Thanks for the info!

    There was a hawk in our factory and I was curious to know what it actually was for certain. The bird flew out one of the windows I had opened, but it was magnificent to watch from only a few feet away.

  19. charleneon 25 Aug 2011 at 1:00 am

    live in louisiana…….had a bird (hawk) bathing in my birdbath….took pics….is there an email address that i can send the pics for possible identification? thanks, charlene

  20. Kate St. Johnon 25 Aug 2011 at 2:17 pm

    I’ll get in touch with you… or you can post a Flickr link here.

  21. Rochelle Landison 10 Sep 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Oh, what a complete thrill today!! My friend and I were driving in Squirrel Hill on Wilkins Ave. this afternoon. (Pittsburgh) I was the driver. This area is totally populated and residential with a good bit of traffic. Driving along, I spotted a large blur of muted colors and movement on the sidewalk to my right a good ten feet away. (I have this innate radar for nature’s creatures) As I neared, I honed in on it, and cried to my friend, Oh, Wow, I think it’s a I red-tailed hawk! I had to see more, so I pulled up to the curb parallel to the bird on the sidewalk only about a foot and a half away, and though I was blocking traffic, I could not move! I was mesmerized! The hawk had bagged a young squirrel which he held captive in his left foot talons; the poor little prey was writhing away, trying to break free, but the bird held him fast. We watched; the hawk knew we were there parked next to him, but we were silent. We observed him (or her) in profile mostly, as that is how the bird was positioned with its prey. We watched and waited, curious as to why the hawk lingered with its wiggling creature so long without further attempt to kill or eat it. The bird did cast his eyes at the car a few times, but seemed undisturbed by us; rather, there was wariness, which was apparent by his shifting his weight back and forth, turning his feet a bit, and moving his head oh so slightly. I got the sense that he was much more concerned about other predators who might steal his food or threaten him. I observed that the hawk was in decision mode…..he had the squirrel, he knew, but he wasn’t comfortable with it on the pavement. What to do? After almost 10 minutes, a long time, he moved with the squirrel a few inches forward, then stopped and contemplated further, and finally took off in flight, heading for foliage so he could enjoy the feast in private.
    I was awe-struck at his beauty; your distinction, showing comparative pictures and a very good description of the differences helped me enormously. Was this, in fact, a red-tail? I got confused because I did not see red color on the tail, but then again, the tail was not spread, nor could I see under it. The bird was large with a prominent head, dramatic hooked beak, and beautifully brown, white, black flecked colors on its feathers. His wings were no doubt large as they draped along his sides almost the length of his body. I knew this couldn’t be a peregrine, not the right coloring, too large, and would unlikely not be on the sidewalk in Sq. Hill.
    I have seen red-tails, but never like this; this was almost a private showing. I can still see every detail of his beautiful body and intelligent face. To see these raptors uncaged, not in an aviary, not in a video, is a gift. My friend, who is not animal savvy and never saw any birds of prey, was so moved, he kept telling everyone we met throughout the afternoon about the experience. I am so glad for him to have had such a thrilling, personal experience, one he (and I) will long remember.
    Thanks for listening….I just had to share my joy with other raptor lovers!!

  22. Jim Naureckason 10 Nov 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks for the identification tips–you helped me confirm that I saw a red-tail and not a peregrine today in New York’s Union Square.

  23. Kate St. Johnon 10 Nov 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Jim, you’re right. It’s a red-tailed hawk. Thanks for sharing the photo.

  24. robon 22 Dec 2011 at 3:39 pm

    from pa here and me and my daughter have seing this hawk or falcon swoop down and take birds out of the air its looks gray and has a straight white line under each wing we been trying to find out what kind of prey this is and we had no luck online and books please help

  25. tahar sadokon 26 Dec 2011 at 2:10 am

    i like falcon and is my job .am from morroco

  26. pennyon 15 Feb 2012 at 1:03 pm

    i’m in kansas and i saw what looked like a hawk or falcon, but i’m having a very hard time identifying it. the most distinguishing feature was a single white bar on each wing.

    and thank you for your blog, since i’ve moved to kansas from michigan i’ve seen many red-tailed hawks (they are everywhere here) and i like your pictures!

  27. Kate St. Johnon 15 Feb 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Penny, I’m not sure which hawk you’re seeing in Kansas in the winter. My best guess is one of these three:
    Northern Harrier: Most notable for the white rump patch on juveniles. Adult males look completely different. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/northern_harrier/id/ac
    Ferruginous Hawk: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ferruginous_Hawk/id/ac
    Rough-legged Hawk, a visitor only in winter: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Rough-legged_Hawk/id/ac

    The link below is to the Kansas birding list. Perhaps you’ll find some hints there and/or people to contact in your area:
    http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/KANS.html

  28. maddion 16 Apr 2012 at 6:00 pm

    that is really helpful, thanks so much!!!! :) hawks are my favorite animal but i would always get them mixed up with falcons… until now.

  29. Barbara Gordonon 02 Oct 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Very interesting information. Yesterday was the second time I saw a hawk on the bush right in front of my apartment. This time I even got a picture of it..! I’m in the outskirts of the city kind of, but cars are always going by. I do however have a few bird feeders outside and lots of birds and even a pesty little chipmonk or two..err!! Most of my succulents have been eaten away this year mainly because it has been so dry and they are both hungry and thirsty. I even put out extra water for them.

  30. Kathy Smithon 06 Feb 2013 at 11:39 am

    Thank you so much for your help, for the past 6 months I couldn’t fiqure out what was right outside my window, it’s a Redtail Hawk!!!!!! Again thanks!!!

  31. Greg Casheron 27 May 2013 at 9:08 pm

    My family was on the way home in Wilkins Township near Monroeville this evening around 7pm (May 27, 2013). We saw a rather large bird of prey on the road pecking at a dead furry animal. We drove slowly to the side of it expecting a crow, but it was a multi-colored bird of prey. I performed an internet search to try to identify it and this article was the first to pop up. I am convinced we saw a red-tail hawk. It was beautiful.

  32. Kate St. Johnon 27 May 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Very cool! Glad I could help.

  33. Grace Brownon 31 May 2013 at 9:53 am

    I have a picture of a bird that I feel someone could identify if they know birds. I took it through a screen so distorted a little. It has a yellow tail. I think it had red on its head also. Confused between Hawk and Woodpecker. Not sure how to send you my picture or where to send. Thanks for any help you can give.

  34. Jerry Smithon 07 Jul 2013 at 8:54 pm

    I live 30 miles south of Dallas, TX.

    I saw a hawk/falcon with a dark body and white tips on the wings. Any idea what it was.

    I have also seen hawk/falcon with a dark body white neck. Saw it twice.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks.

    Jerry

  35. Kate St. Johnon 07 Jul 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Jerry, you didn’t say what sort of habitat you were in when you saw these hawks, so I will make some guesses based on what’s found in Texas in the summer. My two guesses are: dark bird with white wingtips could be a Black Vulture or a Crested Caracara. Dark bird with white wingtips *and* a white neck would be a Crested Caracara. The Caracara is present year round in part of Texas -not sure if it’s in your part of the state. It likes mesquite brushland, open prairie or farmland. It is an uncommon bird.
    Here are photos of it in flight: http://www.schmoker.org/BirdPics/CRCA.html

  36. Jillon 14 Aug 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Kate – Thanks for the final identification of the Red-Tailed Hawk family that’s been enjoying my backyard since May – maybe earlier. I’m in a neighborhood about 10 minutes from downtown Minneapolis with many huge old trees. The parents nested in a neighbors very tall pine tree and visit my yard multiple times a day to hunt and hang out. Their favorite tree is a large oak in my backyard which I fortunately had pruned in Feb. and allows for great viewing. I work from a home office with a wall of windows facing the backyard. I sit facing the windows and spend a lot of time on the phone so hawk watching has become an all day event.

    I’ve observed the full circle of life – 2 adults hunting and caringly sharing dinner, to a single adult at a time during nesting, to 2 juveniles learning to fly – short stints from tree to tree in a circle. 2 weeks ago I awoke to the young sitting and playing on the ground which they’ve done a few times a day ever since. They also fly to rooftops and my deck railing – quite risky behavior and often quite noisy. I snapped some pics of one laying openly & comfortably on the deck railing for 15+ minutes. From my window I was only seeing the frolicking young -but observed a few days ago both parents sitting high in separate trees watching over their young’uns.

    Now the young are learning to hunt – which is what prompted me to search for absolute identification and find your site (a neighbor thought they were falcons). That neighbor has a small pond and he’s observed the young bathing and playing in his pond! This morning it happened so fast – I didn’t see the prey in advance but saw all 4 birds come together in the air for a split second (above my computer screen) then drop to the ground. I leaped from my desk, saw all 4 on the ground for a couple seconds then one flew off clutching a bird to a nearby tree, but out of my sight. The others followed, the juveniles squawked loudly for a couple minutes wanting some breakfast I assume. Then it was silent and they were gone – for now.

    During this period of time my yard has been littered with bird feathers (at 1st prey & now a lot of hawk also), less often bits of (rabbit?) fur and once a partial something – mouse maybe? During the nesting time a single adult, sitting openly in the oak tree while I observed from my deck, defeathered a nuthatch. I typically have 4 bird feeders hung to attract birds but reluctant to aid & abet in bird murder, I’d removed them already. The nuthatches had been regulars at the feeders and nested in the oak tree so it was fascinating but difficult to watch (with binoculars) the hawks head jerk and little grey feathers fluttered through the air. The hawks have been rough on the bird population especially nuthatches. To my dog’s dismay, I’ve noticed a significantly reduced chipmunk population – not sure if the hawks ate them or if they feared for their lives, packed up and moved on. My 30# dog chases the juvenile hawks off the ground but they keep coming back so even a (non-hunting) dog hasn’t been a deterrent.

    This is almost a novel, “2013, the Year of the Hawks” – but I’ve enjoyed sharing it and hope another hawk fan does too. And just before the end, the 2 squawking/whistling young just landed in the oak tree again!

  37. Jillon 16 Aug 2013 at 12:41 am

    Major correction! Due to a lack of knowledge I assumed the birds in my yard would be the most common and wrote my story only yesterday.

    Tonight I finally made it out to the deck about 7:00pm. The hawks had been active and vocal all day – like 6 to 8 times a day. They arrived again – 3 of them that I could see. They are so vocal – especially the juveniles – It seems to me they’d scare prey away but apparently not. The 3 darted all over for 10+ minutes – from tree to roof to telephone wire, out of site, back in site, passing each other, joining each other before darting off again. Then one returned in view in a neighbors tree branch, visible to me, and began to pull out what appeared to be fur. I went for the binoculars. I think it was an adult but not sure. Others didn’t turn up, it prepared and ate on its own and the others went quiet – they were out of site so I don’t know where they went or if they had their ow catch.

    With binoculars – I noted the chest had distinct vertical stripes and thought, Oh my! I may have falcons. But thanks to you Kate! I understood the ground behavior to be more hawk – so more research. I identified the many tail feathers in my yard, low-flying and ground behavior as Cooper’s hawk and read they have been known to hang out in neighborhoods especially where there are bird feeders. And I read a favorite food is chipmunks – which explains my disappearing chipmunks – though I expect Red tails would enjoy them too. Also a preferred nesting site is white pines. However I don’t know if this is the same behavior as other hawks.

    Kate – Do you know much about Cooper’s Hawks? How common they are or anything else about them? Re foods I read as well as rodents they like larger birds like robins and especially doves but early in my yard they ate small little nuthatches. My neighborhood did have robins but not many doves. I have few birds in my yard now other than hawks. Another thing – these hawks are very vocal, quite noisy – all day. Are hawks generally noisy birds?

    When the hawks arrived tonight – 3 squirrels playing on my neighbors roof & tree – absolutely raced for cover. I think faster than when my dog chases them – they seemed to know this danger was real.

    Thank you!

    Jill

  38. Kate St. Johnon 16 Aug 2013 at 6:44 am

    Jill, Sorry I didn’t reply earlier that indeed I think you have a family of Coopers hawks. The hint for me was this information from your first comment:
    “I didn’t see the prey in advance but saw all 4 birds come together in the air for a split second (above my computer screen) then drop to the ground.”

    Coopers Hawks hunt in forests/wooded areas and catch birds in the air. They are very agile at maneuvering around trees and through thickets which is why they have shorter wings and longer tails than peregrines. “Coops” are so agile that they scare their prey much more than red-tails do.
    By comparison: Peregrines hunt in open places where they can dive from above or chase. Red-tailed hawks catch their prey on the ground or on a surface such as a tree branch.

    Noise: Coopers are known to be noisy near their nests so I’m not surprised they’re making a racket in your yard. (All three species are noisy at their nests, though, so that’s not a major hint.)

    Personality:
    Red-tailed hawks are very laid back & their young seem almost stupid at times.
    Peregrines are very “in charge” (lords of the air) and their young seem curious more than anything.
    Coopers hawks are high strung and jumpy and move rapidly in spurts. (Red-tails and peregrines will perch for a long time, then strike. Coops don’t seem to have that sort of patience.)

    I have not been around juvenile “coops” who are still learning from their parents so anything you see is news to me. Wow! Such a show going on in your backyard!

  39. Randyon 27 Aug 2013 at 6:35 pm

    been watching a bird of prey in my back yard trying to catch small birds in the bushes that line my back yard in Reading PA. It looks identical to the peregrine in the picture above. Since I’ve been watching it has caught two small birds (sparrows) I think. It’s behavior is like the Red Tail described in this post but the markings are exactly like the Peregrine in the picture. It has been perching on top of the bushes and then diving into the bushes with it’s wings spread as if to block an escape route. After catching the first bird it flew into a tree and then dove back into the bushes at an alarming rate capturing a second bird. Fascinating to watch. I tried to get pictures but my camera doesn’t have the power to do it justice. It is August 27th 2013 at 6pm.

  40. Kate St. Johnon 28 Aug 2013 at 5:41 am

    Randy, it sounds like you have a juvenile Coopers hawk in your backyard. Your description is excellent. See my comment to Jill just above yours (at this link http://www.wqed.org/birdblog/2011/04/19/falcon-or-hawk/#comment-30234) that compares Coopers hawks to peregrines and red-tails. Juvenile Coopers hawks resemble juvenile peregrines except they have no malar stripe on their faces and they are high-strung and “jumpy” in the bushes. The peregrines’ hunting style works in wide open areas (or cities), not well in backyards. Peregrines don’t like to jump around in the bushes. Coopers hawks love to.

  41. Trudeeon 08 Sep 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I live in Los Angeles, Silverlake area. We have a small aviary in our back yard. Every day this week a large I believe to be falcon (has stripes on its chest) comes to the aviary around 9:00 Am and again in the evening to terrorize the small birds in the aviary. It doesn’t seem afraid of the German Shepard or even me . I thought it was a hawk, but my grandson says its a falcon. What is the difference between a falcon or a cooper’s hawk other than stripes on their faces. What can I do to discourage it. Thanks

  42. Kate St. Johnon 08 Sep 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Trudee, based on the description you’ve given, I guess you have a young Coopers hawk. He is very hungry and not very smart if he is ignoring the dogs. Discouraging him: Can you cover the aviary so he cannot see see birds? Can you give your birds safe places to hide in the aviary so he cannot see them? (It would calm them down to be able to hide.) He is attracted to what he thinks will be an easy meal. If he never gets a meal he will leave.

  43. Trudeeon 08 Sep 2013 at 10:16 pm

    Yes the little finches have nesting boxes they can go into. This bird has been around quite a while though. Maybe not the same one, but I had the same trouble last year.

  44. Joyce Bustrumon 19 Apr 2014 at 3:14 am

    I have been watching these two hawks in a huge tree for 2 weeks. They built a nest on top of the tree. I have never seen anything like them. I looked up white hawk but they still don’t seem to match the photos. They are mostly white with a split tail and light grey wings on top. Where can I go to find out what they are. I live in Camarillo, California.

  45. Kate St. Johnon 19 Apr 2014 at 5:35 am

    Joyce, thank you for telling me where you live. Your description sounds like the white-tailed kite which is resident in very few places in the U.S. but they do live in western California. They are very cool birds! If you get a chance to look at them through binoculars you’ll see they have red eyes. Here are three links with photos and descriptions:
    http://www.wqed.org/birdblog/2011/02/06/beyond-bounds-white-tailed-kite/
    http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/white-tailed_kite/lifehistory
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-tailed_Kite

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