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Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Accipitridae
Subfamily: Accipitrinae
Genus: Accipiter

Length: 14-16 in. (male); 16-19 in. (female)
Weight: 10-14 oz. (male); 17-24 oz. (female)
Wingspan: 28-30 in. (male); 31-34 in. (female)
Common Name: blue darter, chicken hawk
Etymology: accipiter (Latin) - "birds of prey"; cooperii - after William Cooper, an ornithologist
Description: The Cooper's hawk is a short-winged, long-tailed forest-dwelling raptor. Cooper's hawks closely resemble the smaller sharp-shinned hawk, but can be distinguished by the curved tip of the tail with broad white terminal band compared to the squared tip on the tail of the sharp-shinned hawk. Cooper's hawks have a larger, squared head emphasized by its tendency to raise its hackles. The head projects far beyond wrists on a gliding bird, and they have five notched primaries. Cooper's hawks eyes look smaller in the head than sharp-shinned hawks.

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Flight, Voice, and Habitat:

Active flight with stiff, strong wing beats. Typical flight pattern for accipiters is flap, flap, glide - flap, flap, glide. They will surprise prey with a low, swift dashing flight, and have been known to drown prey with a convulsive grip. Will soar with dihedral or flat wings.

Around the nest, a rapid kek, kek, kek, suggestive of a flicker.

Cooper's hawks are forest-dwelling raptors. Their preference for forest habitats makes them more difficult to spot, but they will usually soar for a period of time each day. Cooper's hawks are seen in increasing numbers while sharp-shinned hawks are declining due to habitat. Cooper's hawks will nest in fragmented woodlands, while sharp-shinned hawks won't.


Usually builds a new nest of sticks and twigs each year. Nest is usually lined with flakes of bark and sprigs of green pine needles. Lay 4-5 eggs. Incubation lasts about 30-32 days and is shared by both sexes. Male brings sticks, female arranges nest, in crotch of tree or on top of squirrels nest in dense canopy. Lays eggs every other day but eggs hatched within three days.


Cooper's hawks are common to uncommon in their breeding range, which is most of United States and southern Canada, except southern Florida and northern Great Plains. Northern birds are migratory.


Main food is birds and small mammals.

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