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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Hawks & Owls

Cooper’s Hawks, Accipiter cooperii

Cooper's hawk perched on a fallen log in a thicket

Cooper’s Hawks are found throughout North America, from southern Canada to northern Mexico. They inhabit a wide range of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and wooded suburban areas with mature trees. They are more commonly found in mature forests with a mix of dense understory and open areas, which provide suitable cover for hunting. They are adaptable birds and can thrive in both natural and human-altered landscapes, if suitable prey and nesting sites are available.

Cooper’s Hawks have long tails and short, rounded wings, which allow them to maneuver through dense vegetation during flight. Their plumage is bluish-gray on the back and pale on the underparts, with dark barring on the chest and belly. Adults have distinctive red eyes and a black cap on the head. Juveniles have yellow eyes and brown streaks on their breasts.

They are known for their “stoop” hunting technique, where they dive rapidly from high perches to surprise and capture their prey. They are also known for their exceptional flying skills and ability to navigate through tight spaces and maneuvering through dense vegetation to capture birds. Their primary diet consists of small to medium-sized birds, such as songbirds, pigeons, doves, and occasionally small mammals, reptiles, or insects. They use surprise attacks, flying quickly and directly through foliage or using obstacles as cover to ambush their prey.

Cooper’s Hawks build nests made of sticks, typically in the canopy of large conifers or deciduous trees. The nests are built by both the male and female and are constructed of sticks lined with softer materials like bark, leaves, or moss.

Females lay 3 to 5 eggs, each at intervals of about 1 to 2 days. Incubation lasts around 32 to 36 days, primarily performed by the female, while the male provides food. After hatching, both parents participate in raising and feeding the young. The chicks are fed a diet of freshly killed prey, which is torn into small pieces and delivered to the nest. They grow rapidly, and their parents gradually introduce larger prey items as they develop.

The fledging period for Cooper’s Hawks occurs approximately 4 to 5 weeks after hatching. The young hawks leave the nest and begin to explore nearby branches, gradually strengthening their flight muscles and improving their hunting skills. The parents continue to provide food and guidance during this period.

Cooper’s Hawks are not known for long-distance migrations. However, some individuals and populations may undertake short-distance movements in response to food availability or seasonal changes.