Cooper's Hawk

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Image:CoopersHawk.jpg

Common Name: Copper’s Hawk
Scientific Name: Accipiter cooperii

Size: 14-20 inches (35-50 cm); Wingspan: 24-37 inches (62-94 cm)

Habitat: North America; its range is from Southern Canada to Northern Mexico. Birds from most of the Canadian and northern U.S. range migrate in winter, and some winter as far south as Panama.

It occur in various types of mixed deciduous forests and open woodlands, including small woodlots, riparian woodlands in dry country, open and pinyon woodlands, and forested mountainous regions and also now nests in many cities.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 700,000 adult individuals. Cooper's Hawk populations have been roughly stable from 1966-2010. Partners in Flight estimates 8% breeding in Canada, 89% spending some part of the year in the United States, and 22%t in Mexico. Cooper’s Hawk positive population trends are a turnaround from the mid-twentieth century, when use of the pesticide DDT and widespread shooting greatly reduced their numbers.

Diet: Small and mid-sized birds (mostly American robins, other thrushes, jays, woodpeckers, European starlings, quail, icterids, cuckoos, pigeons and doves). They may supplement their diet with small mammals such as chipmunks, hares, mice, squirrels, and bats.

These birds capture prey from cover or while flying quickly through dense vegetation, relying almost totally on surprise. One study showed that this is a quite dangerous hunting style. More than 300 Cooper's hawk skeletons were investigated and 23% revealed healed fractures in the bones of the chest. Cooper's Hawks capture birds with their feet and kill them by repeated squeezing. They’ve even been known to drown their prey, holding a bird underwater until it stopped moving.

Nesting: While sexes are alike, females are 30% larger than males. Adults are steely blue-gray above with warm reddish bars on the underparts and thick dark bands on the tail. Juveniles are brown above and crisply streaked with brown on the upper breast, giving them a somewhat hooded look compared with young Sharp-shinned Hawks' more diffuse streaking.

While Cooper's hawks are monogamous, most do not mate for life. Pairs will breed once a year and raise one brood per breeding season. Courtship displays include stylized flights with the wings positioned in a deep arc. During their flight displays the male will begin by diving toward the female. A slow speed-chase follows involving the male flying around the female exposing his expanded under tail coverts to her. The male raises his wings high above the back and flies in a wide arc with slow, rhythmic flapping. Courting usually occurs on bright, sunny days, in midmorning. After pairing has occurred, the males make a bowing display before beginning to build the nest.

The breeding pair builds a stick nest in large trees. Over a two-week period the pair builds the nest. The nests are piles of sticks around 69 cm (27 in) in diameter and 15.2–43 cm (6.0–16.9 in) high with a cup-shaped depression in the middle. Their nests are built in pines, oaks, Douglas firs, beeches, spruces, and other tree species usually on flat ground rather than on a hillside. The nests typically are about 7.6–15.1 m (25–50 ft) high off the ground, halfway up the tree, and out on a horizontal branch. The clutch size is usually 3 to 5 cobalt-blue eggs. The female incubates the eggs between 30 to 36 days. The hatchlings 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 until they become independent around 8 weeks.

Cool Facts: The birds found east of the Mississippi River tend to be larger on average than the birds found to the west.

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.


This 3D model is found in Songbird ReMix Birds of Prey Volume III: Hawks of the New World

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