The Cooper's Hawk
) is a medium-sized hawk
The average adult male, at 312 g (11 oz), 39 cm (15 in) long and a wingspan of 73 cm (29 in), is considerably smaller than the average female, at 500 g (1.1 lb), 45 cm (18 in) long and a wingspan of 83 cm (33 in). All have short broad wings and a long, round-ended tail with dark bands. Adults have a dark cap, blue-gray upperparts and white underparts with reddish bars. They have red eyes and yellow legs. Immatures have brown upperparts and pale underparts with thin streaks mostly ending at the belly. This bird is somewhat larger than a Sharp-shinned Hawk
and smaller than a Northern Goshawk
, though small males nearly overlap with big female Sharp-shins, and big female Cooper's Hawks nearly overlap with small male Goshawks. The Cooper's Hawk appears long-necked in flight and has been described by birdwatchers as looking like a "flying cross".
This bird was named after the naturalist William Cooper, one of the founders of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Taxonomy and systematics
Their breeding range extends from southern Canada
to northern Mexico
. They are generally distributed more to the South than the other North American Accipiter
s, the Sharp-shinned Hawk
and the Northern Goshawk
. Birds from most of the Canadian and northern-U.S.
in winter, and some Cooper's Hawks winter as far south as Panama
Food and feeding
These birds capture prey from cover or while flying quickly through dense vegetation, relying almost totally on surprise. Most prey are mid-sized birds, with typical prey including American Robins
, European Starlings
. Birds preyed on can range in size from wood-warblers
to Ring-necked Pheasants
. Cooper's Hawks also eat small mammals
, especially rodents
such as chipmunks
and tree squirrels
. Mammalian prey can be as small as mice
and as large as hares
. Other possibilities are lizards
and large insects
. The hawks often pluck the feathers
off their prey on a post or other perch. They are increasingly seen hunting smaller songbirds
in backyards with feeders. They will perch in trees overlooking the feeders, then swoop down and scatter the other birds in order to capture one in flight.
Their breeding habitat are forested areas. The breeding pair builds a stick nest in large trees. The clutch size is usually 3 to 5 eggs. The cobalt-blue eggs average about 48 x 38 mm (1.9 x 1.5 in) and weigh about 43 g (1.5 oz). The incubation period ranges from 30 to 36 days. The hatchlings are about 28 g (1 oz) and 9 cm (3.8 in) long and are completely covered in white down. They are brooded for about two weeks by the female, while her mate forages for food. The fledging stage is reached at 25 to 34 days of age, though the offspring will return to the nest to be fed for up to 4 more weeks. Eggs and nestlings are preyed on, rarely, by raccoons, crows and competing Cooper's Hawks. Adults rarely fall prey to Red-tailed Hawks, Great Horned Owls and Northern Goshawks.
Status and conservation
At one time, Cooper's Hawks were heavily hunted in persecution for preying on poultry and were called "chicken hawks". It is now known that predation by these hawks on domestic animals borders on negligible, and they are rarely hunted these days. Cooper's Hawks' breeding success was also reduced by the use of the pesticide DDT, but the ban of DDT ended that threat. Since then, the adaptable Cooper's Hawk has thrived.