Help me identify this bird?
April 23, 2011 10:38 AM   Subscribe

A friend snapped a photo of this bird outside of their house near North Plains Oregon, and we're having trouble identifying it.

Our current guess is a white-tailed kite.

Photo (sorry, it was printed then re-scanned)
posted by mattdini to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No, not a white-tailed kite, unless the black on its head is vastly overstated in the photo (as opposed to how it looks in real life). Kites look like they're wearing goggles, not a helmet. Was its breast also that pale in real life? I'll be back...
posted by rtha at 10:42 AM on April 23, 2011

Best answer: I would say Cooper's hawk or maybe Sharp-shinned, perhaps immature. The breast should be streaked, but it is hard to tell with the poor quality of the photo.
posted by JackFlash at 10:50 AM on April 23, 2011

Very tentative ID: you may have a photo of a color-variant goshawk.
posted by rtha at 10:51 AM on April 23, 2011

Best answer: Hmmm, Coop or Sharpie....Could be. It's hard to tell, given the colors in the photo; juvenile Coops and Sharpies are brown; the adults (especially the males) are blue-grey, and Coops tend to have dark caps that come down further over the eyes than Sharpies, but not has far down as that. In both species, juveniles and adults are brown-orange on the front - the juves are streaked, and the adults are barred.
posted by rtha at 10:56 AM on April 23, 2011

Best answer: This is a good photo of an adult Coop.
posted by rtha at 11:01 AM on April 23, 2011

Really hard to tell from the photo, but it looks like it could be an osprey to me.
posted by trip and a half at 11:24 AM on April 23, 2011

I agree with trip, here's one osprey photo and here's another.
posted by cabingirl at 11:27 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

yup. Osprey. They fish - if there's a big body of water nearby tell your friend to keep an eye out and they might see it diving. Also - look for great big nest in the top of a tree near the water. Osprey nests are hard to miss.
posted by aunt_winnifred at 11:48 AM on April 23, 2011

I dunno. I don't think I can go with osprey - they have white on the tops of their heads, and larger bills (in relation to the size of their head) than the bird in this photo, and they're enormous - was this bird enormous? Ospreys, unlike some other species of raptors, have almost no color morphism in their population. We've run across other possibilities* that are very unlikely, because the birds are Central or South American and non-migratory.

You could do worse than contacting the guy who runs the rare bird alert list at the Portland Audubon. If you do, and he can tell you what it is, for the love of god and my sanity, please come back and tell us.

Or, geez, it could be a wind-ruffled peregrine.

* White-breasted falcon, Collared forest-falcon
posted by rtha at 11:54 AM on April 23, 2011

The long narrow tail makes me think accipiter, not osprey.
posted by JackFlash at 11:58 AM on April 23, 2011

rtha, I think I do see some white at the top of the head, which is what made me think osprey. (Peregrine was my very first thought, but I don't think that's right.)
posted by trip and a half at 12:10 PM on April 23, 2011

I have a request in with the best birder I know. I have no idea otherwise. I'll let you know if he has an idea.
posted by Stewriffic at 12:10 PM on April 23, 2011

I've been going through all of our bird books here while rtha does web searches. Here are what I think are the options:

-- a non-native species escaped from someone's private collection, in which case it could be a species from Europe/Asia/Africa that we don't recognize (and isn't in our N Am books)

-- a vagrant very far afield, such as the collared forest-falcon, or the white breasted Mexican subspecies of Sharp-shinned hawk

-- a strange color morph of a standard N Am species, such as Ferruginous, Red-tail, or Broadwing, all of which have many color variations

-- a photo that misrepresents the color and/or detail due to artifacts of the lighting/photo/scan/computer monitor viewing process.

I agree that it's not an osprey. My first thought was caracara, but it's not that either.

Any additional photos, or a non-scanned version available?
posted by gingerbeer at 12:10 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wondered about the size of the beak, too, but I think that bird's head is turned pretty far around and it looks smaller due to foreshortening.
posted by trip and a half at 12:27 PM on April 23, 2011

It's a good thing I had no plans today.

The more I look at it and think about it, the more I think it might be a peregrine. The thing that makes me think it's not an osprey is that they don't have helmets at all - they have dark eye-lines, and a very distinct white cap. The undersides of their tails are also quite light, although there is banding than can make them look dark. Not black, though, in my experience.

The foreshortening in the photo definitely makes things harder.
posted by rtha at 12:38 PM on April 23, 2011

Best answer: On the other hand (I'm going to need more hands), I think I'm going to go with bad-color-photo Cooper's Hawk. The helmet/cap and attitude are right. It's much too light on the breast and chest, but I think the photo's been overexposed. I do see barring, and it looks very light brown/tan.
posted by rtha at 12:48 PM on April 23, 2011

Definitely not an osprey. Foreshortening or no, look at the size of the cere versus the size of the rest of the beak - an osprey's beak would be perhaps twice the length of the cere, more like an eagle's beak. This guy's got a beak that's shaped more like a falcon or hawk.

All the osprey's I've seen and studied do not have dark browns 'caps' on their heads like this bird does; an osprey has more of a thinner brown band that covers the eye and trails down the cheek/neck toward the back.
posted by Squee at 2:40 PM on April 23, 2011

Response by poster: A local birding enthusiast friend says coopers hawk:

What you have there is a lovely Cooper's Hawk! They frequent bird feeders and are found readily in the city and suburbs. They are accipiters and can make amazingly sharp turns through bushes and trees to chase the little birds.

Typically their breasts are a buffy brown and this one seems light, but the dark head makes it a pretty good guess.

Thanks for all the help! (If I can get a better photo, I'll add it to the thread later, but I wouldn't hold my breath)
posted by mattdini at 2:42 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yay, thanks, matt!
posted by rtha at 3:02 PM on April 23, 2011

Best answer: Late to the game, but my friend got back to me and concurs that it's a Coop.
posted by Stewriffic at 9:12 AM on April 24, 2011

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