I warned Zimo things were about to get ugly. If there’s one thing I have learned from doing Natural Wonders it's that people take their bird identification very seriously.
Zimo called in an expert, and they gave it their best shot. But today’s Natural Wonder featuring two birds (that’s as far as I am going in my attempt identify them) brought a small flood of e-mails from folks who are big wheels in the bird identification game.
Zimo is out today. Ironically, he’s bird hunting, so I will share with you what I shared with the experts. I am card-carrying, certified stooge in the bird identification department.
Years ago I took a wild guess at a bird in a Natural Wonder and got a beatdown so severe I still haven’t recovered. The stereotype of bird watchers as meek, mild-mannered people isn’t accurate. Trust me, you don’t want to cross them.
If you’re curious what types of birds are in today’s Idaho Outdoors, you can take your pick among these highly educated opinions, and thanks to all who sent us e-mails.
In reference to the article "Hawks can be tough to identify" in December 28 Outdoors, you certainly have made it more difficult for your readers to identify the raptors in the photos. You mentioned that you checked with the World Center for BOP. They obviously didn't see the photos that were published.
The top left photo is an immature female Sharp-shinned Hawk (accipiter striatus). The lower right photo is not a hawk. It is an immature female Merlin (falco columbarius).
Director, SW Region,
Idaho Falconers Association
2. Dear Pete and Roger,
I noticed your great photos in my copy of the Idaho Statesman this morning. Without paying much attention I brought the Outdoor section to work with me to show our President Peter Jenny. Upon a closer inspection of the photos we identified the top photograph as a sharp-shinned hawk, and the bottom photo is actually a small falcon called a merlin, “Falco columbarius” eating a pigeon. Merlin’s are commonly seen wintering in our area and are similar in size to a sharp-shinned hawk.
I just wanted to bring this to your attention so that you can print a correction, as the article mentioned that you consulted with the World Center for Birds of Prey. We apologize if someone from our organization misidentified the photos.
Keep up the great work and feel free to consult with us anytime. We really enjoyed the goshawk photo that you printed a while back.
The Peregrine Fund
Species Restoration Manager
3. I was looking at the photos in today's Natural Wonder column. The text is not totally clear on which bird you are saying is what. But:
* Isn't the "bird on the right" in the small picture a Kestrel? The moustache is usually a good field mark, thought the picture is a bit dark and the bird in the shadows I think I can see the rusty color of the back and primaries.
* I am not sure if you offer an ID on the bird in the big photo -- but it is clearly an immature Sharp Shinned/Cooper's type which are very hard to ID. I might call it a Sharpie based on the rounder head and thick stripes on the breast.
4. Dear Roger,
Don't want to knock the door handle off of any budding new bird
watchers, but you and my friends at the World Center are way off on
your Hawk ID in today's paper. There is only one hawk in those two
pictures, the bird on the right is an immature Prairie Falcon, not
Cooper's Hawk. Notice the distinct mustache below the eye, thats
always indicative of the falcon family, true in the Peregrine and
common Kestrel. Oh, my credentials; I'm son of Morlan. Keep your
nose in the wind and your eyes on the skyline.
Respectfully, Tyler Nelson
5. Not to be contrary, but are you sure that's not a Prairie Falcon (Falco
mexicanus) in your photo from this morning's paper? Accipters, adult or
juvenile, don't have those tell-tale 'moustache' marks under their eyes, and
that bird just isn't 'built' like an accipter. Prairie's are pretty common
around here, too.
Great photo, by the way, (even if I'm wrong...:-), and a good explanation of
ways to tell the difference between Sharpies and Coopers.