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Cooper's Hawk

Accipiter cooperii

Length: 15 - 20 inches Wingspan: 28 - 34 inches Seasonality: Winter / All Seasons
ID Keys: Reddish barring on underparts, dark bars on white tail, dark head cap

 Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperiiA medium sized hawk of the forests. Although it generally hunts wild birds and small mammals, the Cooper's Hawk also has the somewhat unfair moniker of "Chicken Hawk" for its supposed preference for farm poultry.  A mature Cooper's Hawk has reddish barring on its breast and belly with dark gray or black cap on its head.  An immature bird has thin dark streaks on breast and upper belly (see photo to the right).

Habitat: Prefers conifers or mixed forest when nesting.  Can be found in any forest type in winter.  Generally avoids open areas without trees nearby.

Diet: Mostly birds and small mammals, occasionally reptiles, fish, and insects. 

Behavior: Hunts from a perch, waiting for prey to come within range, and then moving swiftly to catch it.  Very acrobatic and maneuverable in the chase. 

Nesting: April and May.  The nest of a Cooper's Hawk is a large bowl built of sticks, lined with softer vegetative material.  The female usually lays between 3 and 5 eggs, and she does most of the incubation while the male brings her food.  When the eggs hatch, the male initially brings food while the female stays with the young.  After a couple of weeks, both parents help bring food to the young.  The young fledge after about a month.

Song: Cooper's Hawk call

Migration: Birds in northern part of range (northern U.S. and southern Canada) migrate south in the fall. Generally found in all seasons in other parts of its range.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Cooper's Hawk sightings

Similar Species: Sharp-shinned HawkJuvenile Northern Goshawk also could be mistaken for a Cooper's Hawk

Conservation Status: After a severe drop in numbers by 1970, numbers have been increasing.  They have even become more common as breeders in city parks and other urban settings with large trees.  The IUCN lists the Cooper's Hawk as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Cooper's Hawk

2) Audubon Guide - Cooper's Hawk

3) WhatBird - Cooper's Hawk

Photo Information: May 22nd, 2010 - Blue Mound State Park in Minnesota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Cooper's Hawk photos.


Click on the range map for a higher-resolution view
Cooper's Hawk - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant and summer resident statewide.  Rare winter resident.

Additional Cooper's Hawk Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperiiCooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperiiCooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperiiCooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperiiCooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperiiCooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii