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Hi Lee and everybody,

IMO, it would be a mistake to eBird this raptor with an ID.

As I said in my first comment, I will not even attempt to make an ID
because I am not confident that you were able to make a "good visual".
What I mean is you said the raptor flew "through my location at a very high
speed" and there were "heavy markings on its wings and body and its tail
seemed too long for a Kestrel".

Your mind plays "post-sighting tricks on you" when you have a brief, fast
sighting. A photo is golden but on a sighting without a photo where one
seeks ID help, one person could say the "tail seemed to long" and another
who may have been with you could say "the tail seemed short".  There could
be a difference of opinion on how dark and how light it was.  This could
come from experienced birders so it is not a reflection on one's ID
capability, it is simply the fact that a fast sighting of a rapidly flying
raptor under the situation you described could have been one of four
different species.

My opinion is that you should not attempt to ID the raptor for eBird.  I
don't see anyone asking you to describe the flight angle.  Was the raptor:

*  in a "wing-on" profile?  If wing-on, how high or how low versus your
head level?  (you were not but one could be standing on a raised area and
the raptor below you).  The lower the raptor is in a wing-on position, the
less data you get on wing length.

* overhead?

* coming at you or moving away? What angle?

* when you say the raptor was moving at a "very high speed", was it in a
shallow glide, a steep dive, a stoop, was it flapping; if it was flapping,
describe the flapping to possibly separate a Cooper's from a Sharp-shinned,
etc.

I don't see discussion on the tail other than you saying it seemed longer
than a kestrel's.  Was the tail closed or fanned?  Bands"?  If so, how
many?  Tail tip contrast?

The broadness of a wing could look different at a wing-on angle versus an
overhead or moving away at an angle other than right to left, e.g.  The
broadness of a wing could also look different based on sail, glide, soar,
stoop, turn or other profile.  The tail proportion could change based on
adult or juvenile; to a small degree, even feather wear.

Members are trying to help you but my gut says don't attempt to eBird this
sighting.  Andy and others have given some valuable information to you but
again, my gut says that you did not gather enough visual traits to properly
separate this raptor from others in terms of ID.  That has nothing to do
with capability but everything to do with a rapidly fly raptor that was not
immediately identified based on extensive experience, flight
characteristics, structure etc. and being that you are now second guessing
yourself after getting help, It would be a mistake, IMO, to eBird and ID
this raptor.

This to me is an example of trying to put an ID on a raptor by plugging in
field guide traits after a "fuzzy, quick sighting" and that isn't the way
to do it.  Your first impression of a long tail versus a kestrel's could
now be that "the tail now doesn't seem as long" after reading some of these
comments.  This is "mind bending and ID".  Besides, separating some of
these species is difficult even under the best of conditions due to flight
angles and the profile of the wing and tail in that short brief flash of
time.  Nobody trying to help you saw the video or the still photos because
there are not any.  As someone who loves the science (and its integrity)
behind eBird, I say do not ID this sighting.

Enjoy the fall migration everyone!



On Wed, Sep 2, 2015 at 12:51 PM, Lee Herbst <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I went to submit a checklist to eBird for yesterday's observation and
> noticed that Sharp-shinned Hawks are rare, so I am now second guessing
> myself. What if the bird had been a Cooper's Hawk instead. It seemed to be
> too small to be a Cooper's and it's tail was square, not rounded. I am sure
> of the long square tail and dark bandings on the tail, I am also sure that
> the bird was smaller than the few Cooper's I have seen, although I have
> read that the females can be quite small. However, I can't say with 100%
> certainty that it was a Sharp-shinned Hawk. How should I handle this
> situation when reporting to eBird? Should I leave the hawk out of the
> checklist? Should I just report an accipiter? Should I err on the side of
> what's most common and report it as a Cooper's? Or, should I go ahead and
> report it as a Sharp-shinned?
>
>
> On Wed, Sep 2, 2015 at 12:07 PM, Lee Herbst <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
>> After much advice and help from several members and extensive reading on
>> Merlins, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Cooper's Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, as well as
>> American Kestrels, I have narrowed it down to a single bird: Sharp-shinned
>> Hawk. Thank you so much for everyone's help. I have learned a lot about
>> IDing small hawks and will hopefully find it easier next time one zips by
>> on after-burners. I love this hobby.
>>
>> On Wed, Sep 2, 2015 at 7:48 AM, Andy Kratter <[log in to unmask]>
>> wrote:
>>
>>> Merlins have proportionately shorter tails than Kestrels, often a good
>>> point to look for, along with the much broader wings.  Sharp-shinned or
>>> Cooper's Hawk may be a good fit for what you saw.
>>> Andy Kratter
>>> Gainesville, FL
>>>
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>>
>>
>> --
>> Lee Herbst - AK4WN
>> Ocala, FL
>>
>> "Give God your best and let Him do the rest" - Facing the Giants
>>
>
>
>
> --
> Lee Herbst - AK4WN
> Ocala, FL
>
> "Give God your best and let Him do the rest" - Facing the Giants
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--
Bob Stalnaker
Longwood, FL

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