Cooper's Hawk

Accipiter cooperii
Cooper's Hawk specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

The Cooper’s Hawk is often confused with its slightly smaller relative, the Sharp-shinned Hawk. Both species are blue-gray above and streaked rusty-red below with long tails, yellow legs, and small, hooked beaks. However, the Cooper’s Hawk has a rounded tail (Sharp-shinned Hawks have a squared-off tail), and is slightly larger at 14-20 inches long. Like most species of raptors, females are larger than males. Although Cooper’s Hawks may be found all year long across the majority of the United States, individual populations undertake short distance seasonal migrations. In winter, Canadian populations move south into the U.S. and southern populations move south to the Gulf coast, southern Florida, and the desert southwest. In its range, the Cooper’s Hawk is one of the most numerous and adaptable raptors. While usually found in forest habitats, this species has expanded into human-altered landscapes and now frequents towns and suburbs as well. The Cooper’s Hawk is a ‘bird hawk’ capable of hunting birds (on the ground, in trees, or in flight) from the air, and this species frequently enters yards to take small songbirds from feeders. With the aid of binoculars, Cooper’s Hawks may be seen perched in trees while scanning for prey. However, they are often more easily seen in the air while moving between perches or while actively hunting. As this species hunts by sight, it is only active during the day.

DC Information

An uncommon species with partly different populations here in summer and winter. Resident birds nest from mid-April to late July. Birds breeding farther north are transient from March to May and September to November. Individuals from both populations may winter here. Found throughout the year in deciduous and pine forests and wood margins. The female is larger than the male.

Specimen Information

The bird on the left is an adult; the bird on the right is a juvenile.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Accipiter cooperii

Sound from xeno-canto. XC17115 Accipiter cooperii (Cooper's Hawk)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31144 Accipiter cooperii (Cooper's Hawk)