Over the weekend Bernalwood received several reports that a rather large bird of prey had been seen loitering in several Bernal Heights back yards. It began when this big bird was spotted in the backyard of Neighbor @Mop_Head, who speculated that the creature might be a Peregrine Falcon.
On Sunday, Neighbor Erin spotted a similar bird near College Avenue:
Over on Facebook, there were many theories. Perhaps it’s a juvenile red-tailed hawk? Or a coopers hawk? Or maybe a kestrel?
So what kind of critter is it? To answer that, Bernalwood shared the photos with ace birdwatcher Neighbor John, who theorizes:
A little hard to tell, but I’d say it is a juvenile Coopers Hawk. It’s a bit difficult to tell the size and a super similar looking hawk, though smaller is a Sharp Shinned.
Both are reasonably common around here. It would be great to think that this might be one of the two Red Tails that fledged from the nest on the north side of Bernal a month or two ago, but it’s too small and doesn’t have the right markings. For me the key is the dark stripe on the underside of its neck. Peregrines have a mostly white neck. As Coopers get older they add a rufous color to their necks and shoulders. And, as with all hawks, seeing them in flight is key to identification.
UPDATE: 3 August, 1 pm: Neighbor John and his bird-spotting son Eddie shot this photo this morning on the hill. John says:
Eddie and I saw a hawk on our walk this morning, both in flight and in the tree above the Gates steps on the south side of the hill (see attached photo), and the young birder is “very clear” that it is a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk:
Neighbor Tamara reports that she spotted this bird on the hill two days ago:
PHOTOS: Top, @MOP_HEAD; below, @ecmesser