Photo by Evan Lipton

Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

Fun Fact

The Cooper's Hawk has at times been seen catching prey, and then holding it under water to drown it.


Named after William Cooper, a New York ornithologist.

Conservation status

IUCN Least Concern


Up to 12 years in the wild. 20 years in captivity.


A medium hawk with broad wings and a very long tail. Adults are blue-grey above with red bars on the front and dark bands on the tail with a bold white tip. Head is large and squarish with red eyes set forward on the sides. Legs are long and thick. Head has a well defined cap with a dark crown and paler nape. Generally secretive perching within the canopy but sometimes seen out in a tree or on a phone pole. Often mistaken for a Sharp-shinned Hawk, which is smaller in size.


37-45 cm (14.6-17.7 in)


62-90 cm (24.4-35.4 in)


220-680 g (7.8-24 oz)

Cooper's Hawk, photo courtesy of William Liljeroos

Cooper's Hawk, photo courtesy of William Liljeroos


Nearctic from southern Canada to Mexico. Northern populations are almost entirely migratory and may move down in elevation during the winter months. (Range map below)


Found in mixed or coniferous forests. Prefers edges with clearings, roads, or waterways or open woodlands. Often found near riparian zones. Has been known to winter and breed in urban areas. Will often be seen at bird feeders and streets with trees. They have easily adapted to urban settings and it is thought that populations may be higher than in natural habitat.


Predominantly small and medium birds but also small mammals, lizards, frogs and insects in the western part of its range. Will hunt nestlings and fledglings in the summer. Hunts from flight along forest edges and clearings or from a perch. Captures birds with talons and squeezes or drowns it. May eat up to 12% of its body weight in one day.


Solitary or in pairs, and wil sometimes migrate in small groups. Have a typical accipiter flight pattern of flap-flap-glide. High-circling is frequent in early breeding season. When pursuing prey, their flight is powerful, quick and agile. During courtship, males make a bowing display to females after pairing and before they construct a nest.


The season can begin as early as February, but usually from April-July. The male builds the nest, with only a little help from the female. The nest is about 27 inches across and 6-17 in. high with a cup about 4 in. deep. A typical clutch size is 4-5 eggs, with incubation lasting from 30-36 days. Fledging occurs between 27-34 days.


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