Sharp-Shinned hawk

I stopped for coffee at Tim Horton’s this morning and noticed hawk high on a lamp standard some distance away. I might never have seen him if not for the small birds mobbing him. It was too far away for me to see him properly; all I could tell was that he was slim and had a long tail. Kindly (and perhaps to avoid the mobbing) he flew over to a perch closer to me so I could observe him.

I never fail to wonder that birds have become so accustomed to heavy traffic. Just below him passed four lanes of trucks, vans, cars, some belching diesel fumes – a constant noisy flow. He, meanwhile sat there, apparently content that the small birds were gone.

I still wasn’t sure of his precise identity. Perhaps a Sharp-shinned hawk I thought, because they are common around here. He had the required slim body and long tail but I still couldn’t see his colouring well. I came home to consult the bird book, a well-thumbed resource that has more than earned its way into my bookshelf. Yes, it likely was a sharp-shinned hawk, although it might possibly have been a marsh hawk, given the terrain nearby.

Do you ever wonder how hawks came by their names? In our area there are Red tailed hawks (and yes, they do have a red underside to their tails). But we also have the Sharp-shinned hawks (did someone once cut themselves on its shins?) and the Rough-legged hawk. It makes me think of those ads for hair removal creams or ladies razors. Of course there is the ferruginous hawk, but ferruginous just means rust-coloured so that’s fair enough. Whoever named it must have been a bit pedantic – they could simply have called it rust coloured and we would all have known what they meant.

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