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Thursday, April 2 we had a large Cooper’s Hawk fly through our backyard and land in a tree. I was amazed at how large the bird was. It landed on a tree branch with its back to me and then turned around so that I could see the streaks on its breast side. These hawks fly through our yard preying on feeder birds.

Here is more detailed information about the Cooper’s Hawk.
A medium-sized hawk of the forest, the Cooper’s Hawk specializes in eating birds and small mammals. It is built for fast flight through the obstacle course of trees and limbs.

Description

  • Size: 39-50 cm (15-20 in)
  • Wingspan: 62-90 cm (24-35 in)
  • Weight: 250-597 g (8.83-21.07 ounces)
  • Medium-sized hawk.
  • Tail long, rounded, and barred.
  • Wings short and rounded.
  • Back dark gray or gray-brown.
  • Underparts barred reddish and white.
  • Dark crown contrasts with nape.
  • Legs yellow.
  • Eyes orange or red.
  • Tail ends in white tail band.

 Sex Differences
Sexes similar in plumage; female larger.

The Cooper’s Hawk is found year round across the United States.

Reproduction

Nest Type
Open bowl of sticks lined with bark flakes and occasionally rimmed with green vegetation. Placed in main crotch or against the trunk of a live tree. Often placed on top of old crow, squirrel, or other hawk nest.

Egg Description
White to bluish white.

Clutch Size
Usually 3-5 eggs. Range: 1-7.

Condition at Hatching
Helpless and covered in white down.

Cool Facts

Dashing through vegetation to catch birds is a rather dangerous lifestyle. A recent study found that 23 percent of all Cooper’s Hawks examined had healed fractures in the bones of the chest, especially of the furcula or wishbone.

A Cooper’s Hawk captures a bird with its feet, and will squeeze it repeatedly to kill it. It does not bite the prey to kill it in the fashion of falcons, but holds it away from its body until it dies. It has been known to drown its prey, holding a bird under water until it stops moving.

Large numbers of Cooper’s Hawks can be seen on migration, especially at hawk watches such as Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania; Cape May, New Jersey, Goshute Mountain Range, Nevada, or Braddock Bay, New York. Autumn movements generally begin in late August and continue through early November. Young Cooper’s Hawks tend to migrate about a week earlier than adults, and females tend to go earlier than males by a few days.

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