NatureMapping Animal Facts

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Species Code: ACCO

distribution map Description: The Cooper's Hawk, is a crow sized accipiter very similar to the smaller, robin sized Sharp-shinned Hawk. The bird was named by Charles Bonaparte in 1828 after William Cooper, who collected the specimens that were used to describe the species.

Cooper's Hawk photo by Natures Pics

The forward facing eyes of the Cooper's Hawk are yellow to deep red. They have good depth perception for hunting and catching prey while flying at high speeds.

This raptor has powerful feet with needle sharp talons for catching prey. The hooked bill is well adapted to tearing the flesh of its favorite prey such as chipmunks, squirrels and birds.

The Cooper's Hawk is from 14 to 21 inches long, with a wingspan of from 27 to 36 inches. The tail is long, rounded, and barred (see photo).

Females are up to one third larger than males, one of the largest sexual dimorphism size differences of any hawk.

Calls: The alarm call is a series of sharp "cak"s.
Listen to calls of this species »

Range / Habitat: The Cooper's Hawk breeds across southern Canada southward to southern United States and into central Mexico. Breeds in deciduous, mixed, and coniferous forests. Winters throughout the United States and Mexico.

In Washington, the Cooper's Hawk is uncommon throughout forested areas at low and middle elevations, preferring hardwood stands where available and also in northeastern Washington and along the Blue Mountains, in riparian areas of coniferous landscapes. They can also be found in lowland areas throughout western Washington where large stands of hardwood trees exist. They are absent from high elevations due to lack of large hardwood trees.

Click the range map to learn more about the distribution of Cooper's Hawk in Washington.

Diet: The Cooper's Hawk is a small raptor that captures its favorite prey including chipmunks, squirrels and other small mammals. It also feeds on various bird species including starlings, flickers, robins and Mourning Doves.

Cooper's Hawk photo by Natures Pics

Behavior: During hunting, the Cooper's Hawk approaches its prey stealthily, moving quietly through dense cover until it is close enough to overcome its target with a burst of speed. The secretive traits that allow the Cooper's Hawk to surprise its prey also make it difficult to observe by humans.

Most of Washington's Cooper's Hawks probably migrate to central and southern Mexico for the winter.

Nesting: The male Cooper's Hawk builds a platform nest of sticks and twigs from 20 to 60 feet above ground level in a tree located in a wooded area. Sometimes he is assisted by the female in building the nest. The nest is located in main crotch or against the trunk of a live tree. Sometimes the nest is built on top of old squirrel, crow, or hawk nest.

The female lays and incubates from 4 to 6 bluish white eggs, that hatch in about 5 weeks. During the incubation process, the male brings food to the female. After the eggs hatch, both parents tend the young who leave the nest after four to five weeks. Parents continue to provide food until the young become independent at about 8 weeks.

Did you know?

  • Cooper's Hawks migrate to central and southern Mexico for the winter.
  • This raptor has powerful feet with sharp talons for catching prey.

Cooper's Hawk photo by Natures Pics

Cooper's Hawk

More information:
BirdWeb: Cooper's Hawk
All About Birds: Cooper's Hawk
Tricky Bird IDs: Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper's Hawk

More photos: Cooper's Hawk photos by Natures Pics

Animal silhouettes available to purchase »

Photos: Natures Pics

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