|Species: Cooper’s Hawk
Cooper’s Hawks are
very similar to Sharp-shinned Hawks, but are larger and therefore
hunt larger animals. This hawk actively hunts pigeons, squirrels,
small ducks, starlings, robins and many other similarly sized birds.
They are one of the most common city hawks in Vancouver and can be
seen all year round in the Lower Mainland.
breed from half way up Saskatchewan and Manitoba south to Northern
Mexico and from coast to coast. They winter as far north as southern
Canada to Panama.
Cooper’s Hawks look lanky in flight with a long tail and legs. They
have a white tip to each tail feather giving them a fairly broad
white terminal band. In flight they hold their head farther forward
and their carpal joint (elbows) farther back so that their head
protrudes. Their tails are more rounded than Sharp-shinned Hawks.
Adults are blue backed, with rusty red barring on breast and belly.
They have a dark cap with a bright red or orange eye and dark blue
bands on their bands and tail. The top of their head is darker and
flatter than Sharp-shinned Hawks on average and forms a peak at the
Immature individuals are brown backed with thin brown streaking on
their breasts. They have dark brown bands on their tail and a
Sharp-shinned Hawks are smaller and have a squarer tail with a
thinner, less obvious tip to each tail feather. They also hold their
carpal joints farther forward and heads farther back than Cooper’s
Hawks while in flight and have sharper more rapid wing beats. They
also have much thinner legs.
Cooper’s Hawks use surprise and short bursts of speed to catch their
pray. They hunt from perches by staying hidden in large trees and
using their short wings to sneak through thick wooded areas. They
can however be seen soaring during migration like most other hawks.
Cooper’s Hawks can be found in most habitats throughout their range,
including city parks and back yards.
The Coopers Hawk
may have been the most ubiquitous hawk in the forests of the New
World for early settlers thus becoming known as the “Chicken Hawk”.
The bird’s official name honours zoologist William Cooper, who lived
from 1798 to 1864 and first described this exclusively New World
The Coopers Hawk does not tolerate smaller, competitive
Sharp-shinned Hawk within same woodland.
Nest building is done mainly by the male while the female watches,
occasionally chattering her approval or adding to the nest. Placed
on horizontal branches against the trunk of a conifer, or in a
crotch of a dense deciduous tree, the nest is a little over 2ft wide
and quite flat topped 10-60ft high. The bowl, which holds 3-6 bluish
eggs, is lined with flakes of bark.
Status: (Least Concern)
Because of their
adaptability, Cooper’s Hawks have recovered from their prosecution
for preying on Poultry, which is now know to be almost non existent,
and the use of DDT and other pesticides. These hawks are thriving on
the large populations of European Starlings, American Robins and
Rock Pigeons. One of the only threats to these birds is the loss of
breeding habitat through deforestation.
The Cooper's Hawk is a short distance migrant, moving south
in the winter as suggested by the zero capture rate
(2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net
hours) from November to April. The peak capture rate from
August through October corresponds to juvenile dispersal and
the start of migration indicating that Colony Farm may be an
important stop-over for these birds to feed.