Description of the Cooper's Hawk
The Cooper’s Hawk is intermediate in size between its closest relatives, the Sharp-shinned Hawk and the Northern Goshawk. It has blue-gray upperparts and wings, a dark cap, and a reddish-barred breast. Its long tail has a white tip and is somewhat rounded. Adults have red eyes. In flight, it shows rather short, rounded wings.
Males are somewhat bluer and smaller.
Visit the Bent Life History for additional details.
Females are slightly browner and larger.
Seasonal change in appearance
Juveniles have brownish upperparts and wings, and vertical brownish streaks on the underparts. They also have yellowish eyes.
Woodlands and mature forests, and along tree-lined rivers.
Primarily birds and small mammals.
Cooper’s Hawks watch for prey from a perch or by cruising, and then use their speed and agility to pursue and capture prey.
Cooper’s Hawks breed in most parts of the U.S., southernmost Canada, and in parts of Mexico. The population has increased in recent decades, after a decline in the 1960s.
Bent Life History
Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Cooper's Hawk.
The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.
Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History
Cooper’s Hawks may be observed near bird feeders in winter, taking advantage of the concentration of smaller avian prey coming to the feeder.
The short, rounded wings and long tail of the Cooper’s Hawk enhance its agility when chasing prey through a maze of trees or shrubs.
Usually silent, the Cooper’s Hawk may give a loud "kak kak kak" when defending its nest.