Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s Hawk could best be described as a reluctant migrant. Although it leaves the northern portions of its breeding range in winter, it spends the non-breeding season farther north than most other hawks. There are year-round populations that inhabit the Pacific Northwest.

They look so much like sharp-shinned hawks that you can hardly tell them apart. But the Coopers hawk is larger than the sharp-shinned hawks.

The Cooper’s Hawk took a liking to the farm chicken, and they became known as the chicken hawk. Man then started to kill them off. But we did not just kill coopers, but all types of hawks, and they were killed by the thousands. A very sad event.

Immature Coopers Hawk, Vancouver Island, BC
Immature Coopers Hawk, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

We are getting smarter now and have learned to enjoy seeing the hawks as opposed to killing them, but we still kill many hawks inadvertently, some strike roadside wires, some die after eating rodents killed with poison, But I think the biggest threat to them from man comes from hitting our plate glass windows as coopers think that they can fly right into the reflection on the windows.

The adult has rounded wings and a long rounded tail. They are a blue-gray color on the top and the underside of the wings are gray with black bars, the chest and belly are white with strong rusty markings. They prefer deciduous forests and woodlands and feed on small mammals and other birds.

Immature Coopers Hawk, Vancouver Island, BC
Immature Coopers Hawk, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

The Cooper’s Hawk courtship is quite lengthy. After they both build the nest, the male may feed the female for up to a month before she begins to lay up to 5 eggs. Their nest is usually built in a tree, 8-16 meters off the ground. The nest is typically built on top of an old nest.  The female incubates the eggs for up to 35 days. The male brings food and will incubate the eggs when the female leaves the nest to stretch her wings and do a bit of hunting on her own. Once the eggs hatch, the female broods the young for about two more weeks. During this time, the male will continue to bring food to the female, who then feeds it to the nestlings. The young start to test their wings at around 4 weeks of age with short flights and take to the air shortly after. The parents will both continue to feed the young for up to 7 more weeks.

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