What bird is this over Berlin?
March 27, 2009 7:01 AM   Subscribe

Blurrybirdidentificationfilter: what raptor is this?


I was on my balcony the other day when I noticed a bird doing the usual bird-of-prey things, and figured it was one of our local kestrels about to do in a sparrow, but then I saw that it was a lot less flappy and notably bigger. It was too far away to identify by sight but I was able to get some (truly awful) photos of it (sorry, it was very fast and distant, and I really underexposed and then had to push the levels in order to see anything other than a silhouette):

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

I've included some of the worst photos just so you can see the tailfeather shape during a few different types of flying.

I haven't been able to recognize it from the photos and my bird books are not helping. It was probably slightly smaller than a crow, and the 'fingers' give me the impression it's a hawk or harrier of some kind, but I'm not an expert. Anyone recognize this bird? Location is Berlin, Germany, and we're on a waterway and see a fair amount of unusual birds due to the former-iron-curtain wilderness effect and intense local preservation and veterinary efforts, so suggestions don't have to be restricted only to birds you'd be likely to see in farther-west cities.

posted by Your Time Machine Sucks to Science & Nature (11 answers total)
I am not an expert - like, at all - on Europe-specific raptors, but it looks an awful lot like some kind of accipiter. It looks like a (North American) Cooper's hawk, so I'm leaning towards a (Eurasian) sparrowhawk or goshawk. Distance and light and make estimating size and color accurately kind of a nightmare, but these are actually great ID photos...if I knew my European raptors better (or at all). I'll poke around the internets some more and see if I can find anything more definitive.
posted by rtha at 7:21 AM on March 27, 2009

IANAB (I am not a birder), but you might try asking the people at the Hawk Conservancy Trust. Although they're in the UK and not Germany, they are extremely well-versed in raptors.
posted by plinth at 7:36 AM on March 27, 2009

Yeah, looks like a sparrowhawk to me. It would certainly be my first guess for the UK but the wikipedia article suggests it is just as common to the rest of Europe.
posted by ninebelow at 7:55 AM on March 27, 2009

Oh yeah, comparing this one of mine and this one on wikipedia, I'm tending to think sparrowhawk is a pretty good call! Thank you.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 8:04 AM on March 27, 2009

Yup, sparrowhawk.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:54 AM on March 27, 2009

Most of your photos are silhouettes which make the bird look rather dark. However, the shape is unmistakingly of an accipitor raptor. It's rather smallish size would recommend the sparrowhawk or a merlin. Aren't there harriers in Europe? Very similar look to the North American Harrier. A goshawk would have shown a little more white.
posted by birdwatcher at 9:46 AM on March 27, 2009

I think the wings are too broad for it to be a harrier, and not pointy enough for it to be a merlin. In my experience, it's also difficult to get a photo as good as these of a merlin in flight. And excellent way to ID a flying merlin is if a small, dark falcon goes by so fast you don't really get a look at it - if you're lucky, you'll see the strongly marked bands on the tail.
posted by rtha at 10:28 AM on March 27, 2009

For what it's worth, a similar siting, (self-link!, with images much worse than yours, through a very dirty glass roof), from Paris.
posted by Dick Paris at 11:33 AM on March 27, 2009

A lovely Eurasian kestrel, Dick Paris! The group I volunteer with trapped and banded a juvenile female in October 2007, which may be the first document siting in California. Lucky you, to look out your rooftop and see one!
posted by rtha at 1:16 PM on March 27, 2009

Sighting, dammit. I am fail today at homonyms.
posted by rtha at 2:13 PM on March 27, 2009

I wanted to follow up on this after reading this article in the Guarniad:


I think there is a very strong possibility that it was a female goshawk, which are apparently more common here than sparrowhawks. This would also account for the fact that we can sometimes hear a shrieking call off in the distance.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 2:03 AM on April 13, 2009

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