I see or hear about on-line discussions regarding accipiter ID every day, but a topic I don't see discussed is juvenile Goshawks being lightly marked underneath. I'll say right up front that lightly marked Goshawks (birds that are more lightly marked than most Cooper's Hawks) are extremely uncommon, so you may never see one. But, if you don't look for one, you WILL NEVER see one. I have seen several of these variant Goshawks in my life, and one in particular I saw about 14 years ago comes to mind. I was counting hawks at the Goshute Mountains and a lightly marked, bulky accipiter went overhead to the East. I called it a Goshawk, but it struck me how lightly marked it was underneath. Just then, the bird dropped out of the sky and was captured at a trapping station. It was nice to get confirmation on the ID and see that my suspicions were correct.
Well, the other day, a similar story unfolded. Kim Steininger sent me photos of such a Goshawk from Hawk Mountain. She was with another observer, Holly Merker, who sent me more photos of the bird. I was excited to see the great documentation they captured! But, the best part of the sighting is that these two incredibly observant hawk watchers nailed the ID based on shape and flight style traits, understanding that plumage is secondary when identifying migrating hawks. Kudos to Kim and Holly! Check out their photos, and thank them for letting me share the pics here...the more we share, the better we all become at understanding birds.
Anyway, keep an eye out for this type of Goshawk, but remember they are rare, so don't start turning plain old Cooper's Hawks into Goshawks!