Cooper’s Hawk was first described by French naturalist Charles Lucien Bonaparte in 1828. It is a member of the Goshawk genus Accipiter. This bird was named after the naturalist William Cooper, one of the founders of the New York Lyceum of Natural History (later the New York Academy of Sciences) in New York. Other common names; Big Blue Darter, Chicken Hawk, Hen Hawk, Mexican Hawk, Quail Hawk, Striker and Swift Hawk.
The average mass of an adult male ranges from 220 to 440 g (7.8 to 15.5 oz) with a length between 35 and 46 cm (14 and 18 in). The adult male is significantly smaller than the average female, which weighs 330 to 700 g (12 to 25 oz) and measures 42 to 50 cm (17 to 20 in) long. Adults have red eyes and have a black cap, with blue-gray upper parts and white underparts with fine, thin, reddish bars. Their tail is blue-gray on top and pale underneath, barred with black bands.
Immatures have yellow eyes and have a brown cap, with brown upperparts and pale underparts with thin black streaks mostly ending at the belly. Their tail is brown on top and pale underneath, barred with dark bands. The eyes of this hawk, as in most predatory birds, face forward, enabling good depth perception for hunting and catching prey while flying at top speeds. They have hooked bills that are well adapted for tearing the flesh of prey. Immatures are somewhat larger than a Sharp-shinned Hawk and smaller than a Northern Goshawk. [Wikipedia]
Among the bird world’s most skillful fliers, Cooper’s Hawks are common woodland hawks that tear through cluttered tree canopies in a high-speed pursuit of other birds. You’re most likely to see one prowling above a forest edge or field using just a few stiff wing beats followed by a glide. With their smaller lookalike, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawks make for famously tricky identifications. Both species are sometimes unwanted guests at bird feeders, looking for an easy meal (but not one of sunflower seeds). [All About Birds]
Cooper’s Hawk Facts [All About Birds]
- A Cooper’s Hawk captures a bird with its feet and kills it by repeated squeezing. Falcons tend to kill their prey by biting it, but Cooper’s Hawks hold their catch away from the body until it dies. They’ve even been known to drown their prey, holding a bird underwater until it stopped moving.
- Once thought averse to towns and cities, Cooper’s Hawks are now fairly common urban and suburban birds. Some studies show their numbers are actually higher in towns than in their natural habitat, forests. Cities provide plenty of Rock Pigeon and Mourning Dove prey. Though one study in Arizona found a downside to the high-dove diet: Cooper’s Hawk nestlings suffered from a parasitic disease they acquired from eating dove meat.
- Life is tricky for male Cooper’s Hawks. As in most hawks, males are significantly smaller than their mates. The danger is that female Cooper’s Hawks specialize in eating medium-sized birds. Males tend to be submissive to females and to listen out for reassuring call notes the females make when they’re willing to be approached. Males build the nest, then provide nearly all the food to females and young over the next 90 days before the young fledge.
- The oldest recorded Cooper’s Hawk was a male and at least 20 years, 4 months old. He had been banded in California in 1986 and was found in Washington in 2006.