Cooper’s Hawk

Accipiter cooperii (William Cooper, 1796-1864, zoologist)
Prepared by: 
Ann Walton
  • Length: 14 – 20 inches    
  • Wingspan: 29 – 37 inches
  • Weight: male 235 – 300 gm, female 413 – 598 gm

Larger than the Sharp-shinned Hawk, the “Coop” also has the small rounded 
wing of a forest Accipiter, with its long tail rounded at the tip.  Male and female coloration is similar. The upperparts are bluish with a darker crown contrasting with the lighter back. The underparts are whitish with dense reddish barring.  The tail has broad gray bands. Eyes vary in color from orange to red.  Immatures are brown above with whitish to buffy, brown streaked underparts; their eyes are yellow.


Southern Canada, U.S. and south to Honduras.
Coniferous and deciduous forests with dense canopy cover, using woodland edges and clearings for hunting. In winter, ubiquitous, including urban areas. With loss of forest habitat, rapid adaptation to the urban setting has occurred, commonly visiting bird feeding stations for prey and nesting becoming more prevalent.
Birds are the dominant prey (60 – 80%), but also takes small mammals and some reptiles. Chosen prey weighs 36 – 51 gm, about 12% of the adult Cooper’s weight. Hunts by extended flights along forest edges or clearings. When prey is sighted, this accipiter either makes a sudden, swift burst of pursuit or will settle on a perch, silently waiting until the victim is in a good position for a successful capture. With its long tail and short wings, it can quickly maneuver into the interior of bushes and trees for its prey. Immatures will often pursue prey on foot!
March – July, earlier in southern extremes. Solitary. The nest, a compact flat platform of sticks lined with bark or greenery 24 – 48 feet above the ground is placed in the main crotch of either a deciduous or coniferous tree. Even though extended forests are preferred, urban nesters will take any small stand of trees available. Clutch is 3 – 6 eggs. Can breed after one year, but usually wait until two.
Can be migratory from north half of range, but some birds are resident. Sedentary elsewhere, although altitudinal migration is common in mountainous areas. Spring migration occurs in March through May, while fall migration starts in late August and extends into November, with a peak at the end of September.
Widespread and unthreatened, perhaps one of the most common hawks in the western U.S. With its urban adaptation the population seems to be increasing.