How the Sharpie Changed Its Spots

This post is more for ornithological interest than photographic. A week or so ago, my wife and I were on our screened in back porch when a Sharp-shinned Hawk came in and perched with it’s back to us. We’d been thinking we had a t least two individuals, because we’d see one with a double row of dime-sized white spots on it’s back and one without. This one was without.

However, it suddenly ruffled it’s feathers, shook them out and looked like this:

Please note that this second image was taken on a different day, and I don’t know if it’s the same Sharpie. Unfortunately, I wasn’t shooting when the phenomenon occurred.

The field guides don’t talk about this much, and even Cornell just has a casual mention that sometimes the white roots of the feathers are visible, but when you see it, it’s really a cool phenomenon.

By the way the out of focus Goldfinch was left in the first image because that’s why the Sharpie was there (and it did get one that evening when I had camera in hand, but I’m nowhere near fast enough to follow the action of a small bird taking evasive action from a Sharp-shinned Hawk and didn’t even come close to getting an image of that).

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Both images taken with my 7DII and Sigma 150-600 C. Mostly just cropping and tonal adjustments to both.

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That is amazing, Dennis. Thanks for sharing that with us. Both are nice images. So glad that they came to your back yard and you got some shots.

Interesting to see the differences you captured in plumage in this species, Dennis. The fact you got the sharpies in both images in similar poses and looking in the same direction makes the comparison easy.

Both nice shots with very good detail. In comparing the two birds, the primaries in the second bird extends further down the tail and the head seems larger. I’m hardly an expert on accipiters, so I’m curious why the second bird couldn’t be a Cooper’s Hawk?