"I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven."
Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sharp-shinned hawks: winter visitors to Orange County

A sharp-shinned hawk rescued recently by Pete DeSimone. Photo by Tom Sheffield

Pete DeSimone, manager of Audubon California's Starr Ranch Sanctuary in Trabuco Canyon, was recently called out to a home in Coto de Caza to rescue a sharp-shinned hawk, which had become trapped in a spa.

DeSimone said no one knew exactly how the hawk ended up in the water.  But it may have hit a window while chasing a bird and possibly flailed around on the ground then fell in, he said.  The hawk was taken to Veterinarian Scott Weldy, director of the Orange County Bird of Prey Center, who determined the bird had spinal damage. It did not live long enough to be placed in the rehabilitation center.

Sharp-shinned hawks migrate through Southern California this time of year.  They are the smallest birds in the accipiter family. These birds prey chiefly on small birds, often at feeders.

Sharp-shinned hawks are distinguished from the similar Cooper's hawk by shorter, squared tails,  often appearing notched when folded, thinner legs, and smaller head and neck.  Sharp-shinned hawks are smaller overall with a length of 10-14 inches with a wing span of 20-28 inches. Cooper's hawks are typically 14-20 inches long with wingspans of 29-37 inches.  Females are noticeably larger than males in both species.

For information on how to prevent birds from flying into windows, go to Window strikes increase during migration.

Happy Birding!

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