Thursday, March 4, 2021

Bird identification


I was out for a late Winter walk and I came upon a bird standing in a stream.

"Is it a pigeon?" I wondered.

I didn't think it was a pigeon, but I did what I always do in such a situation. I took three billion pictures of the bird until it flew away. Somewhere along the way in that I identified the bird as a hawk... of...some...kind.

I'm super good at bird identification!

Here is what I have learned about bird identification for the, er, non professional birder:

There are always 10 or 15 birds around that are easy to identify, like where I live; bald eagle, robin, blue jay, turkey vulture, cardinal, turkey, etc.  Most people around here know what these birds are without needing to consult thick and detailed guides. 

For everything else you can just look your bird up anywhere, a book, the Internet, a phone app, whatever, and you quickly find:


A. Your bird does not exist.


B. Your bird can be one of two birds. 

So I don't even try to identify my birds. I take my best picture to my co-worker who is an avid birder. And I ask "What is it?".

Here is my bird:

He was super interested because he is an avid birder.

He commented on how nice a picture it is, which was very satisfying. He said incredulously "You took this picture?"

I contain multitudes.

He checked the computer.

"It could be one of two birds" he said. "Do you have any pictures of its tail feathers?


I focused on that red eye, which apparently offered us little on what sort of bird it is. 

Go figure.

The Cooper's Hawk is maybe a bit more common around here, but it was decided that mine was a Sharp-shinned Hawk. 
Sharp-shinned Hawk. I'd prefer the name "Red-eyed Hawk", but I guess that wouldn't always be accurate?
It turned out the pigeon thing was a the helpful clue. The Sharp-shinned Hawk is small for a hawk, thus the almost pigeon size. Not that my bird wouldn't take a stab at eating a small pigeon if he could get one, or so I learned. Also the pattern on the chest is just like the pattern of the Sharp-shinned Hawk in the Internet picture. Although, to be honest, it's a lot like the pattern of the Cooper's Hawk too.

Definitely a Sharp-shinned Hawk though. It was verified by a professional birder! And it's rather a top notch Sharp-shinned Hawk if you ask me, although what with my close personal relationship to this bird I may be a bit biased.


  1. Thoroughly enjoyable read! I love the Walt tease, and hence would like you to overrule your colleague, the Internet, and natural selection, and call this the Whitman bird, at least for the purposes of your readers and loved ones. It's not often I ask for bird name changes on your blog, so if you would consider it, I would be most appreciative. After all, a mouse is enough to stagger sixtillion of infidels!

    1. I was like "Walt tease," what? What do you mean "Walt tease"? And then like "OH, yeah, right, I knew I took that from somewhere good!"

      Anyway, I'm so glad you enjoyed this piece about the Whitman Bird I came upon! I'm delighted that you are a fan of Whitman Birds. They look a lot like Sharp-shinned Hawks, don't you think, but prettier!

      So there it is, who wishes to walk with us?


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