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Cooper's Hawk coopers hawk

Identification - Pictures and Video

(Accipiter cooperii)coopers hawk

Cooper's Hawk, a raptor named after the naturalist William Cooper is 14 to 20 inches with a wing span of 2 1/4 to 3 feet.  They have short wings, and a long rounded tail with gray and black bands, and a white band at the tip.  Adults have blue gray backs, white under parts with fine, thin, reddish bars, red eyes, and  a black cap.  The sexes look alike but females are about a third larger than the males.  Younger birds are brown, and streaked below and the eyes are yellow.  They fly with stiff, strong wing beats.

They are often confused with the much smaller Sharp-Shined Hawk.  Cooper's Hawks have a whiter more finely streaked breast, the legs are thicker, the head is larger, and younger birds have a reddish hue on the side of their heads and nape.  The Sharp-Shined Hawk's tail is square.

Photos by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.

Watch video of cooper's hawk on fence below.


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Most videos on my site were taken with the Canon HG10 camcorder.

coopers hawk

Cooper's Hawk sound

Their voice is a rapid kek-kek-kek which sounds much like a flicker, as well as a mewing like a Sapsucker.   Hawk sound

Preferred Habitat

Some Cooper's hawks have a summer range from Southern Canada through Northern U.S.  The Hawk can be found in most of the U.S. the entire year.  The Northern hawks migrate for the winter.  They like woodlands, riversides, and canyons, and can often be seen soaring over head.

Breeding and Nesting

During courtship the male may feed the female for up to a month.  A pair will mate for life.  Their nest, built mostly by the male in a large tree is built with sticks and lined with bark, needles and down.  They have been known to take over an old crow's nest or even build on a squirrels nest.  The female will lay 3 to 5 pale blue to white eggs, which are sometimes spotted.  The eggs will be incubated by both birds for around a month and hatchlings will be covered with white down.  The male will bring food while the female cares for the young until they fledge in 25 to 35 days.  The young birds will return to the nest for feeding for 4 weeks after fledging.

Food hawk with prey

These hawks eat small birds such as robins, sparrows, starlings, flickers, chickadees, and many more.  They will often perch in a tree or on post to pluck the feathers off their prey.  They also eat mammals such as chipmunks, squirrels, mice, and rabbits.  The hawks also eat insects, and reptiles such as frogs, snakes, and lizards.  When they hunt they move quietly through the woods getting close enough to capture their prey with a burst of speed.  They are quick, and agile with the ability to navigate through dense brush at high speeds.  They kill their prey by squeezing it with their talons, but have been known to hold them under water until they drown.

hawk at feederSmaller birds at backyard feeders may attract Cooper's hawks.  The hawks will swoop down from a nearby tree, and catch one of the birds in flight as they scatter.

The hawks were once called Chicken or Hen hawks and hunted because they preyed on chickens.  It is now known that the number of chickens they take is insignificant.


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