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The bird Patrick describes sounds like a large accipter, although his
description does not entirely rule out Northern Harrier. Whether or not it
was a Northern Goshawk depends upon field marks he did not note.

Field marks for the immature N. Goshawk include a light supercilium (line
above the eye), wavy tail barring, more dense and blurred streaking on the
breast and belly, streaked under tail coverts and (according to Sibley) pale
bars on the greater coverts (rear portion of shoulders). Cooper's Hawks have
finer streaking, straighter tail barring,  paler bellies and entirely white
under tail coverts (feathers rear of the bird's underside near the base of
its tail). Cooper's Hawks have proportionately longer tails and shorter
wings than N. Goshawks, which can look almost buteo-like when soaring. N.
Goshawks' wings are allegedly somewhat more pointed-looking than those of
Cooper's Hawks, although they should still look more rounded than those of
a Gyrfalcon, with which N. Goshawk is sometimes confused. Cooper's have a
conspicuous white band at the end of the tail. The N. Goshawk's band is
narrower. A female N. Goshawk is a very big bird. I once saw one in direct
comparison with a Red-tailed Hawk, and the N. Goshawk was larger.

N. Harriers are somwhat like Cooper's Hawks and N. Goshawks in that they
have long tails and do not have pointed wings like falcons. However, their
wings are very long, and their flight is slower and different. Accipiters
fly with rapid flaps, followed frequently by short glides. Even when flying
in a staight line, a N. Harrier's flight should be more languid. Its white
rump should also be visible, if you look for it.

Cooper's Hawks, like many raptors, come in two sizes. Females are
considerably larger than males.

I don't know what to make of Patrick's statement that the breast was "nearly
grayish white with a rusty buffy color mixed in." Grayish white sounds like
a mature N. Goshawk. "Rusty" sounds like a mature Cooper's, or perhaps a
Northern harrier. Patrick's statement that the tail of his bird was
"extremely long" also moves the ID in the direction of a Cooper's or
Northern Harrier.

Try to find it again, Patrick. This is a Northern Goshawk winter.

Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
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