Identifying Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks is always a challenge, as these two accipiters look amazingly similar both as juveniles and as adults. There is even overlap between the sizes of males and females of the two species, making distinguishing between them even more difficult. Fortunately, you don’t need to frown when you see one of these birds anymore – we’ve got a perfect comparison shot so you can always tell what is a Cooper’s hawk and what is a sharpie!
Silliness aside, comparing the two birds is a good way to tell them apart. Cooper’s hawks are larger, have longer tails, slightly thicker legs, a more distinct “cap” on their head, more color contrast at the nape, and more of a white tip on the tail. If you’re able to see all those clues you’d have a good chance of properly identifying the hawk, but if you can’t, remember that it can be more important to simply enjoy and appreciate the bird rather than always feel 100 percent confident about its identification. Smile just because you saw a hawk!