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Old Jul 9, 2004, 11:24 AM   #1
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What kind of hawk is this?



He flew by me and I couldn't focus my camera as he was too close. He had white underparts, even though this shots doesn't show that.

Then I saw bunch of these small birds hanging out with Black-necked Stilt. They look like some kind of sandpiper to me.




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Old Jul 9, 2004, 11:49 AM   #2
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The hawk is a Northern Harrier. You can tell by how they hold their head when they fly and the white patch on the butt.

Can't help you on the shore bird. I'm not as good with them as I'd like to be.

Eric
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Old Jul 9, 2004, 11:57 AM   #3
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Thanks Eric.
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Old Jul 9, 2004, 7:13 PM   #4
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I agree with Eric on the Northern Harrier (used to be known as a Marsh Hawk). Furthermore, because of it's overall brown color, it is either an adult female or possibly a juvenile. The males are grey above.

I think that you are correct that the second bird is a sandpiper. Pinpointing the specific type of sandpiper is better left to a shorebird expert, which I'm not. If I had to guess, based on your evaluation of being a smaller bird, then I'd say it's either a Least or Western Sandpiper.
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Old Jul 9, 2004, 11:56 PM   #5
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Oh boy, I'm probably going to get myself in hot water here but what the heck.

I've been studying shore birds quite a bit lately so here is what I can conjure from the photo:

It isn't a Sandpiper because the bill isn't formed downwards at the end. This bill has a definite upwards turn. Coloration is wrong for the Sanderling or Red Knot. Could it be a Snipe? It's upturned bill is nothing I've ever seen in photographs, so I'd guess a Snipe with a weird bill.
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Old Jul 10, 2004, 12:05 AM   #6
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Normcar wrote:
Quote:
Oh boy, I'm probably going to get myself in hot water here but what the heck.
:-) Yep, you're in hot water now! :-) And I was thinking that you didn't need me around any longer for id'ing birds...

Quote:
It isn't a Sandpiper because the bill isn't formed downwards at the end. This bill has a definite upwards turn. Coloration is wrong for the Sanderling or Red Knot. Could it be a Snipe? It's upturned bill is nothing I've ever seen in photographs, so I'd guess a Snipe with a weird bill.

I think the appearance here of an upturned bill is an optical illusion brought on by the bird's bill being open at the time of the snapshot. Coloration and markings are pretty good for a Least or Western Sandpiper. Now, a snipe's bill is long, really long, probably 3 times the length of the bird's head, while the sandpipers I mentioned have bills approximately as long as the bird's head which approximates this bird's bill pretty well.

I'm kind of sure it's one of the two sandpipers I mentioned but cannot distinguish among the two of them.

Keep trying to id these birds, even if you end up being wrong, because in so doing you learn a little bit more about the characteristics of the bird you thought it was and the bird it really is.

(Edit - Ok, I'm learning too - shorebirds are not my best area of bird expertise. This is not a Western Sandpiper because the legs of the Western Sandpiper are black, not yellow as in this bird. The Least Sandpiper has yellow legs so it is probably that. It'd be nice if bobbyz could tell us how big he thinks this bird was - the size of a sparrow or bigger like a starling?)



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Old Jul 10, 2004, 1:00 AM   #7
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I think the appearance here of an upturned bill is an optical illusion brought on by the bird's bill being open at the time of the snapshot.

Hmmm, I'd love to believe that but the photo just doesn't seem to prove it. What caused the optical illusion?

Geoff, you know that I respect your views immensely, and also respect that you have no problem reconsidering. Optical illusion? I just can't accept this as a possibility here. All in fun and more fun, of course. But also to try to get the answer.
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Old Jul 10, 2004, 1:16 AM   #8
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Perhaps optical illusion was the wrong phrase to describe what I meant. It seems as though we are looking at a bird whose bill is open. It is definitely funny that when you look at it, it appears that the upper half seems to curve a bit upwards but the lower half seems to curve a bit down. I don't know of a bird in which that would be the case (except perhaps the crossbills which these are not). That is why it appeared an illusion to me, perhaps brought on by lighting and angle- it's not possible for the bill to be curving both directions!

I still believe in my gut that we are looking at a sandpiper. The reason that I asked bobbyz in my previous message for a size evaluation is because if it is the size of an average sparrow then it could be the Least Sandpiper. Something the size of a starling could be the Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper which at this time of year in California would be very rare.
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Old Jul 10, 2004, 1:56 AM   #9
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I understand what you are saying geoff, but sometimes "nature" brings about weird concoctions. This is definitely not an optical illusion, so it must be a freak of nature. No way that bill is an illusion.
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Old Jul 10, 2004, 2:38 AM   #10
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Ok, Norm, I'll defer to your more experienced knowledge with regard to what is and isn't possible vis a vis the image we see here. Given that, I'll admit to being stumped.

I still think that it's a Least Sandpiper though... :-)

Maybe Hummer or Eric CAN will weigh in with their two cents, at least I hope so. Or... with bobbyz's permission I'll post this on birdforum.net and ask for an id on it.
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