Christmas Quiz Answer

And now for the answer to the Christmas Quiz:

Q:  What Species of Accipiter is Endemic to North America?

A:  Sharp-shinned Hawk (and I will make my case why!)

First off we can throw Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) out of the picture as it is widespread in the Northern Hemisphere.  Now I’ve also seen references to both Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk being endemic to North America, but as I will point out, Cooper’s Hawkis very closely related to 3 other species of Hawk, which some scientists are  making the case to lump them together.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) breeds largely across Canada (south of the tree line), through much of the west and in the Northeast and higher elevations of the Appalachians south to Georgia.  It is widespread in migration and winters widely across the U.S.

It is also a permenate resident on Cuba and Hispanola and breeds in the higher mountain areas of Mexico.  In winter in can be found through out Central America as well, south to Panama.

While the Sharp-Shinned Hawklooks similar to the Northern Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), the two do not seem to be closely related.

Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), breeds from Southern Canada across most of the U.S into the Mountains of Northern Mexico.  Where it does not breed, the birds are found in migration and winter.  In winter it can be found through southern Mexico and rarely as far south as Panama.

However, Cooper’s Hawkis absent from the Caribbean, both as a breeder and in winter.  On Cuba, the Cooper’s Hawk is replaced by the nearly identical (and endangered) Gundlach’s Hawk (Accipiter gunlachi).  Looking at a field guide, the two Hawks are nearly impossible to distinguish and many scientists believe they may be the same species, but due to the difficulty of researching Gundlach’s Hawk  this relationship remains unclear.

However a number of scientists also want to throw 2 more species into the Cooper’s/Gundlach’s Hawk discussion.  Bicoloured Hawk (Accipiter bicolor), is a resident from the Yucatan of Mexico through much of Northern South America, the Amazon basin south to Uraguay and  Chilean Hawk (Accipiter chilensis) is resident along the southern half of Chile and extreme western Argentina.

All four species look similar to each, have similar habitats and habitat, however each of the 4 have unique breeding ranges with no overlap (Although Cooper’s Hawk andBicoloured Hawk may meet each other in winter).  But because the question remains whether these are four seperate species or if they are 4 subspecies of a single species.  If they are 1 species, then the Cooper’s Hawk is not endemic to North America, making the Sharp-Shinned Hawk the answer to the Christmas Quiz!

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2 responses to “Christmas Quiz Answer

  1. Apparently there is also a Cooper’s Hawk specimen from northern Colombia.

    The interesting thing is, though, that the AOU lists Sharp-shinned Hawk as present in South America, but the Cooper’s Hawk as only a vagrant – due to similar arguments over lumping and splitting. Meanwhile they split A. cooperii and A. bicolor.

  2. Well I’ve certainly learned more about Accipiters then I knew before. When I asked the question, I thought Cooper’s Hawk was the answer, however as I researched a response, it became less clear to me.

    Now I’ve yet to find a range map that shows either Sharp-shinned Hawk or Cooper’s Hawk going much beyond Mexico in winter (The Raptor field guide I was using, shows it going a bit further south to about Panama).

    To me Cooper’s and Gundlach’s Hawks are one and the same, however it may take more DNA research to determin if the other two hawks A. bicolor and A. chilensis are that closely related to Cooper’s.

    As more details come out and organizations like the AOU lump, split and lump again, I think this answer can remain somewhat fluid between the two. It has at least to me, been facinating to look into and learn about.

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