Photo: Johann Schumacher/Vireo

Cooper's Hawk

Accipiter cooperii

A medium-sized hawk of the woodlands. Feeding mostly on birds and small mammals, it hunts by stealth, approaching its prey through dense cover and then pouncing with a rapid, powerful flight. Of the three bird-eating Accipiter hawks, Cooper's is the mid-sized species and the most widespread as a nesting bird south of Canada.
Conservation status Numbers declined in mid-20th century, possibly owing to effects of DDT and other pesticides. Some recovery since, and numbers probably stable in most areas.
Family Hawks and Eagles
Habitat Mature forest, open woodlands, wood edges, river groves. Nests in coniferous, deciduous, and mixed woods, typically those with tall trees and with openings or edge habitat nearby. Also found along trees along rivers through open country, and increasingly in suburbs and cities where some tall trees exist for nest sites. In winter may be in fairly open country, especially in west.
A medium-sized hawk of the woodlands. Feeding mostly on birds and small mammals, it hunts by stealth, approaching its prey through dense cover and then pouncing with a rapid, powerful flight. Of the three bird-eating Accipiter hawks, Cooper's is the mid-sized species and the most widespread as a nesting bird south of Canada.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • juvenile male
  • adult
  • juvenile
  • adult
  • juvenile
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Usually hunts by stealth, moving from perch to perch in dense cover, listening and watching, then putting on a burst of speed to overtake prey. Sometimes cruises low over ground, approaching from behind shrubbery to take prey by surprise.


Eggs

3-5, sometimes 1-7. Pale bluish-white. Incubation is mostly by female, usually 34-36 days. Male brings food to female, and then incubates for a few minutes while female is eating. Young: Female broods young during first 2 weeks after they hatch; male brings food, gives it to female at perch near nest, and she feeds it to young. Young may climb about in nest tree after about 4 weeks, can fly at about 4-5 weeks.


Young

Female broods young during first 2 weeks after they hatch; male brings food, gives it to female at perch near nest, and she feeds it to young. Young may climb about in nest tree after about 4 weeks, can fly at about 4-5 weeks.

Diet

Mostly birds and small mammals. Feeds mainly on medium-sized birds, in the size range of robins, jays, flickers, also on larger and smaller birds. Also eats many small mammals, such as chipmunks, tree squirrels, ground squirrels, mice, bats. Sometimes eats reptiles, insects.


Nesting

In courtship (and occasionally at other times), both sexes may fly over territory with slow, exaggerated wingbeats. Male feeds female for up to a month before she begins laying eggs. Nest site is in tree, either deciduous or coniferous, usually 25-50' above ground. Often placed on top of some pre-existing foundation, such as old nest of large bird or squirrel, or clump of mistletoe. Nest (probably built by both sexes) is bulky structure of sticks, lined with softer material such as strips of bark.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Found all year in much of range, but northernmost breeders move south for winter. Migrates by day. Especially in fall, migrants often concentrate along ridges and coastlines in certain weather conditions.

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Migration

Found all year in much of range, but northernmost breeders move south for winter. Migrates by day. Especially in fall, migrants often concentrate along ridges and coastlines in certain weather conditions.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Loud cack-cack-cack-cack.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

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