Unusual Bird Sighting

It’s not everyday that I see this happen in the suburb where I live.

Sunday morning I pulled open my curtain and something seemed different about the tree outside. It looked as though the tree had grown a pretty big nub. And what was that colorful blob right at its base? Had my dad left a ball of orange-colored string or cloth on the tree after he trimmed it?

With eyes still bleary, I strained to get a better look at it. I’m not sure how the moment of recognition came—perhaps it moved—but I couldn’t believe my eyes. Whenever I can’t believe my eyes, I take out my camera, to make sure that it wasn’t just me.

Apparently, a bird of prey had hunted another bird and was eating it while perched on the persimmon tree in my backyard. I hurriedly took some photos, not sure if the bird would take off any moment as soon as it noticed me. Either it didn’t see me, or it was unafraid.

I believe I had once seen a bird like this one before, but that was during the summer of 2004, when I was home alone. I turned and looked out the window and saw a huge brown-striped bird perched on one of the black horizontal cables. That bird was bigger than this one, since it appeared large at that distance, which was farther away than this one.

I snapped as many pictures of the bird as I could, trying to zoom in on it, without it getting blurry. Unfortunately, my camera battery died. My parents were calling me to get ready to leave, or we would be late for church. (They saw the bird too, but neither of them seemed as fascinated as I was.) I left reluctantly, thinking that the bird would definitely finish its meal and be gone by the time I returned.

To my great surprise, when I came back about two hours later, the bird was still there, though it had pretty much finished devouring the other bird. I scurried for some new batteries, and quickly took some more pictures.

Then I decided to record a video as well, and managed to catch the final moments of it eating. It dropped the remains and hopped onto another branch of the tree. That’s when I stopped filming because I couldn’t see it clearly anymore. It eventually flew up to higher branches of another tree and perched there for some time, until it took off, presumably when someone entered the yard.

I won’t post the video because it was a bit shaky, but I have captured a few still images from it.


The next morning I went outside to see the remains of the bird that died. All I found were blood-stained bones, many feathers, and white splatter marks on the ground.

Which species of bird is it?

I was pretty sure it was a bird of prey, but exactly what kind, I did not know. Thanks to this site I thought it was a Cooper’s Hawk because of the bands on the tail. Since the site warned that they are easily confused with the Sharp-shinned Hawk, I decided to investigate some more and looked up hawk identification.

Then I came across this useful site with tips for distinguishing the Sharp-shinned Hawk from Cooper’s Hawk. I concluded that it’s a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but I’m still a bit unsure. It’s definitely a juvenile because of the yellow eyes. This one seems larger than a pigeon, but that’s possible if it’s a female Sharp-shinned Hawk.

My only confusion is that it doesn’t appear in this area on the map, whereas Cooper’s Hawk does. Since the Sharp-shinned Hawk is migratory during the winter, my guess is that it is merely passing through this area, and I have no idea when the next time I might see one will be.

Any other ideas as to which species this bird is?

Edit 6/27/13: Thanks to a tip from lovelylollipop, I now think this bird might be a Merlin.

Original post 1/12/2011 3:51 PM


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