Found across North America, Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii, is a medium sized hawk, normally measuring 35cm and 50cm in length, with a wingspan of between 60cm and 80cm. These hawks tend to have blue-grey heads, wings and backs, white chests with brown barring, and long tails with white terminal bands.
Cooper’s Hawks are normally found across open woodlands and deciduous forests. In recent years these hawks have also increasingly been found in urban and suburban environments. This range dispersion has generally been associated with the hunt for prey.
The diet of the Cooper’s Hawk is predominantly made up of medium sized birds, although smaller birds are also eaten. In the main the diet comprises American Robins, European Starlings, thrushes, jays and woodpeckers. The aggressive nature of the Cooper’s Hawk though does see it attack and kill American Kestrels and Sharp-shinned Hawks as well.
In addition to other birds, the diet of the Cooper’s Hawk can comprise of mammals, including squirrels, hares and mice, as well as on occasion, reptiles, including snakes and lizards.
Those birds that find themselves in the urban environments will find themselves with an array of birds to prey upon, including the mourning dive and rock pigeon. These urban environments also make it extremely easy for the Cooper’s Hawk to find its prey, all it has to do is keep an eye on bird tables and feeders in gardens, and await small birds to start feeding. These small birds normally stand little chance of survival if the Cooper’s Hawk starts to chase it down.
Cooper’s Hawks can be normally seen hunting on the wing, gliding over wooded habitats. Very quickly though, the Cooper’s Hawk can change from a gliding search, to an active pursuit. The relatively short wingspan and long tail of the Cooper’s Hawk, allows them to dart through even the densest of woodland at great speed; avoiding the vegetation and making quick turns to stay within sight of their prey.
Prey is caught by making use of the feet of the Cooper’s Hawk; once caught the prey will be squeezed until it dies, and is then consumed. There is also some evidence to suggest that drowning prey is also a relatively common occurrence.
In addition to gliding, Cooper’s Hawks can also be observed perched on high tree tops, poles and fences, where they sit and wait for unknowing prey to come within their grasp. Once sighted a rapid, short chase will normally ensue.