My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii

The Cooper’s Hawk is a medium-sized hawk native to the North American continent and found from Southern Canada to Northern Mexico. As in many birds of prey, the male is smaller than the female. The birds found east of the Mississippi River tend to be larger on average than the birds found to the west.

These birds capture prey from cover or while flying quickly through dense vegetation, relying almost totally on surprise. One study showed that this is a quite dangerous hunting style. More than 300 Cooper’s Hawk skeletons were investigated and 23% revealed healed fractures in the bones of the chest. Cooper’s Hawks prey almost exclusively on small to mid-sized birds. Typical prey species include American Robins, other thrushes, jays, woodpeckers, European Starlings, quail, icterids, cuckoos, pigeons and doves. Birds preyed on can range in size from wood-warblers to Ring-necked Pheasants. They may also prey upon the raptor American Kestrel and other smaller raptors, including their cousin the Sharp-shinned Hawk. They have been known to rob nests and may supplement their diet with small mammals such as chipmunks, hares, mice, squirrels, and bats. Even more rarely, they may predate on lizards, frogs, or snakes. It normally catches its prey with its feet and kills it by repeatedly squeezing it and holding it away from its body until it dies. They have also been seen drowning their prey, holding it underwater until it stops moving. The hawks often pluck the feathers off their prey on a post or other perch. They also hunt songbirds at backyard feeders, perching nearby then swooping down and scattering the birds to a single one out in flight. They may pursue prey on the ground by half running and half flying.

The Cooper’s Hawks are monogamous, but most do not mate for life. Pairs will breed once a year and raise one brood per breeding season. Courtship displays include stylized flights with the wings positioned in a deep arc. During their flight displays the male will begin by diving toward the female. A slow speed-chase follows involving the male flying around the female exposing his expanded under tail coverts to her. The male raises his wings high above the back and flies in a wide arc with slow, rhythmic flapping. Courting usually occurs on bright, sunny days, in midmorning. After pairing has occurred, the males make a bowing display before beginning to build the nest. Males are usually submissive to females and will listen for reassuring call notes the females make when they are willing to be approached.

On to my photos:

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk

Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk

Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk heading straight for me

Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk heading straight for me

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk after buzzing me

Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk after buzzing me

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk in flight

Cooper’s Hawk in flight

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk in flight

Cooper’s Hawk in flight

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk in flight

Cooper’s Hawk in flight

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk in flight

Cooper’s Hawk in flight

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

Coopers Hawk

Coopers Hawk

Coopers hawk stretching

Coopers hawk stretching

Coopers hawk

Coopers hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk in flight

Cooper’s Hawk in flight

Cooper's Hawk in flight

Cooper’s Hawk in flight

This is number 50 in my photo life list, only 300 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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12 responses

  1. Really nice shots to ID this raptor.

    March 8, 2013 at 2:51 am

    • Thank you, it helps when I see them on at least a weekly basis to give me many chances to photograph them.

      March 8, 2013 at 8:24 am

  2. Good flying pictures again.

    March 8, 2013 at 10:45 am

    • Thanks, I have no flying chaffinches so I have to make do with the species available to me. 😉

      March 8, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      • You do very well with them.

        March 8, 2013 at 6:20 pm

  3. plantsamazeme

    I agree, really nice shots to ID this raptor. I see the Cooper’s Hawk here in our woods. When I tried to ID it, (long ago) I couldn’t find a hawk with a light colored chest and dark wings, in the books. Your pictures show off this bird from every angle. Thanks.
    🙂

    March 8, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    • Thanks, I hope to have just as good photos for most of the difficult to identify birds, as I find most field guides lacking in photos. As I am learning through blogging, there are many regional differences in birds as well, making identifying some species even harder.

      March 9, 2013 at 1:14 am

  4. I love coop stretching. Age old question..is it a coop or a sharpie? Love these images they show him from all angles. 🙂

    March 9, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    • Thanks, I was very lucky to be able to follow both cooper’s and sharpies around for two years. Cooper’s tails have rounded edges and they have necks. Sharpies have square tails and no neck.

      March 9, 2013 at 10:45 pm

      • Oh this is a great and easy way to I’d. Thx

        March 9, 2013 at 11:17 pm

  5. Fantastic action shots with all kinds of angles, nice work Jerry. Yes, I see the red eye! 🙂 Thanks always for helping my ID some of my photos, I don’t know how you can learn all these birds. But I’m trying!

    March 19, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    • Thanks Donna, the only way to become good at IDing them is to see them often, and good photos help as well. As I explained in my reply to your post, I saw them and photographed them often, then studied my photos to help me learn the hawks.

      March 20, 2013 at 1:04 am