Coopers Hawk, Accipiter cooperii

Facts and Information

This is a Coopers Hawk, or possibly a Northern Goshawk. The two hawks are so similar that we can't make a definitive ruling.

Cooper's Hawk, San Juan Island

Like the Northern Goshawk, the average adult male Coopers Hawk is smaller than the female. Males grow to about 15" compared to the female at almost 18". Both sexes have short rounded wings and a very long tail with dark bands, round-ended at the tip.

These birds prefer to nest in wooded areas adjacent to wide open fields that provide hunting opportunities. They are also attracted to backyard feeders for the easy lure of smaller seed-feeding birds, perching in trees overlooking the feeders, and swooping down to capture a smaller bird as the others scatter. Like the Northern Goshawk, Cooper's Hawks hunt for small birds and mammals while flying quickly through dense vegetation, using the element of surprise to catch their prey. Prey can include lizards, frogs, snakes and large insects, as well, making San Juan Island a natural and logical home.

Cooper's Hawks build stick nests in large trees to lay their eggs, which are cobalt-blue. When they hatch, the babies completely covered in white down. The female stays with the babies for about two weeks while the male hunts for food.

This bird is one of 2 immature hawks that hatched in a nest next to our driveway. The parents built the nest near the top of a fir tree and we got to watch the whole process, including feeding the young, and later watching the young practice flying and catching prey. This photo shows one of the immature hawks hanging around our driveway, only about 30 feet from the house, giving us a great view of their goings on. This bird and its sibling would throw a fir cone around between them, doing what looked to us an awful lot like practicing catching prey. They would throw the cone and then jump over and pounce on it, gripping it in their feet.

Jump over to any of the other San Juan Island bird pages: American Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Common Raven, Great Blue Heron, Double Crested Cormorant, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-winged Blackbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Sea Hawk, Yellow Rumped Warbler, Great Horned Owl, Wild Turkey, Trumpeter Swan.

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