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Eyes Like a Hawk

I wish I had eyes like a hawk, but when you hear the story you'll know that I don't and that my memory is also suspect. When I took the picture of the Cooper's I posted the other day I shot a lot of pictures trying to get a decent shot, and as you may have noticed the Cooper's kept its distance. I also took the pictures below, and sent them to some experts on the Utah Birdtalk list to confirm that my identification was correct. I was surprised to learn that there were two different hawks in my pictures, the Cooper's I posted before and these, all pictures of a Swainson's Hawk.

My first reaction was that they had to be wrong, after all the timestamps on the pictures were all within a couple of minutes of each other. I was sure I'd followed the hawk from branch to branch and when he flew away I witnessed that too. But being the cautious sort I went back to check my photos and discovered that right after I shot the Cooper's I took a picture of some ordinary looking bird on a nearby tree. So it was possible that the Swainson's had replaced him, but I didn't believe it.

I wrote to the person who first made the identification and asked if she was absolutely sure. She said she was particularly since another member on the list a Jerry Ligouri agreed with her identification. I might have still have had some doubts, but she sent me the above link. What can I say, my eyesight, and memory need some fine tuning if I expect to get better at the tricky business of identifying birds. Oh and Jerry says what we have here "is a sub-adult Swainson's acquiring it's full adult plumage. How cool is that?

Swainson's Hawk



I need to get a copy of Jerry's books as I have difficulty discerning the different birds of prey as well.

I ask my husband and he always has a response but sometimes I suspect he's just handin' me a line (as on some occasions when we've gotten a closer look he's been in error but then again maybe those were 'replaced' birds as well).

BTW, thanks for the Ephron link it was parody in perfection.

More fun with birds! Raptor vision is indeed different than ours. One feature is the fovea or focal point on the retina. Our fovea is like a small bowl or depression on the retina allowing for a higher concentration of receptors, mostly cones. The Eagles and Hawks have more of a pit for a fovea allowing for concentrations of cones far above ours at their most focused point. (sorry, I couldn't find a good picture on the internet.)

We have Coopers Hawks here in the east but have only had one Swainsons Hawk visitor in the last few years.


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