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A photo of a Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Accipiter cooperii

The Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) is a medium-sized hawk native to the North American continent, ranging from southern Canada to Mexico. This agile raptor is a member of the genus Accipiter, known as true hawks, which are adept at navigating wooded habitats. Males are typically smaller than females, and individuals east of the Mississippi River are generally larger than their western counterparts. The species is named after William Cooper, a fellow ornithologist and friend of Charles Lucien Bonaparte, who described the species in 1828.

Identification Tips

Adult Cooper's Hawks exhibit a blue-gray or brown-gray back with a sizeable head that may appear rounded or squarish. Their hooked bills are well-adapted for tearing prey, and they possess strong, yellow legs and feet. Eyes range from light orange to red, with males often having darker eyes. Juveniles are brown above with a hooded appearance and streaked below. In flight, Cooper's Hawks have rounded wings and a long, banded tail.

Habitat

Cooper's Hawks prefer deciduous and mixed forests, often nesting in tall trees with extensive canopy cover. They are also found in forested mountainous regions, open woodlands, and urban areas with sufficient tree cover.

Distribution

The breeding range of the Cooper's Hawk extends from southern Canada to northern Mexico. They are found throughout the contiguous United States, except for some parts of the southern Great Plains. In winter, they are commonly found in the southern United States and Mexico, with some individuals reaching Central America.

Behaviour

Cooper's Hawks are solitary outside of breeding season and are known for their bold and aggressive hunting style. They rely on stealth and agility to navigate through dense vegetation in pursuit of prey, which primarily consists of small-to-medium-sized birds.

Song & Calls

The typical call of a Cooper's Hawk is a harsh, cackling yelp, often described as "keh-keh-keh." Males tend to have a higher-pitched voice than females. During courtship and when delivering food to the nest, males may emit a nighthawk-like "kik" call.

Breeding

Cooper's Hawks are monogamous and often exhibit high mate fidelity, especially in urban environments. They build bulky nests in trees and lay clutches averaging three to five eggs. Females primarily incubate the eggs, and both parents participate in feeding the young.

Similar Species

The Cooper's Hawk can be confused with the smaller Sharp-shinned Hawk and the larger Northern Goshawk. Key distinguishing features include the Cooper's Hawk's intermediate feathering at the top of the tarsus, longer tail, and shorter wings compared to its relatives.

Diet and Feeding

Cooper's Hawks primarily hunt small-to-medium-sized birds, such as American Robins and Mourning Doves. They also take small mammals, reptiles, and occasionally insects. Hunting techniques involve swift, agile flights and surprise attacks from perches.

Conservation Status

The Cooper's Hawk is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN. After historical declines due to persecution and pesticide use, populations have recovered significantly and continue to adapt to urban environments.

Cooper's Hawk Sounds


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Cooper's Hawk Fun Facts

Did you know?
Female Cooper's Hawks can be between 40 and 125 percent larger then males.

Cooper's Hawks on Birda

Sightings

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