Armchair Birding

Late this afternoon, as I sat in our farmhouse living room watching college basketball, a small raptor landed on a limb of our catalpa, framed within a small window just above the television.  It was a sharp-shinned hawk, a small accipiter with a long, barred tail that is squared off at its terminal edge; as if to assist my identification, the sharpie turned 180 degrees, showing off its finely striped chest and abdomen.

Feasting on songbirds, sharp-shinned hawks are fairly common throughout most of the Lower 48 during the colder months of the year, retreating to mountainous areas or Canadian latitudes to breed.  Their smaller size and squared-off tail distinguish them from Cooper's hawks which are permanent residents across most of the country.

As veteran birders know, such incidental sightings are rather common for those of us attuned to nature.  Sometimes, after scouring nature preserves for half the day, we return home to encounter the most interesting species in our own backyard (or perhaps from a living room armchair).