Description of the Cooper's Hawk

BREEDING MALE

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.

 

Cooper's Hawk

 

Visit the Bent Life History for additional details.

Female

Females are slightly browner and larger.

Seasonal change in appearance

None.

Juvenile

Juveniles have brownish upperparts and wings, and vertical brownish streaks on the underparts.  They also have yellowish eyes.

 

Cooper's Hawk

Habitat

Woodlands and mature forests, and along tree-lined rivers.

Diet

Primarily birds and small mammals.

Behavior

Cooper’s Hawks watch for prey from a perch or by cruising, and then use their speed and agility to pursue and capture prey.

Range

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.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Cooper's Hawk.

Wing Shape

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

Fun Facts

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.

Vocalizations

Usually silent, the Cooper’s Hawk may give a loud "kak kak kak" when defending its nest.

Nesting

The nest is a platform of sticks usually placed 25-50 feet high in a tree, and often near water.

Number: Usually lay 3-5 eggs.
Color: White or pale blue.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 34-36 days, and leave the nest in another 27-34 days, though continuing to associate with the adults for some time.