Cooper’s Hawk: Woodland Hawks of North America

Cooper's Hawk Perched

What is a Cooper’s Hawk?

A cooper’s hawk is a medium sized bird of prey that has a long, striped tail and broad, long wings. Adults are bluish-gray near the head. The females are larger than the males, which is common in many birds of prey. Cooper’s hawks are commonly seen near woodland areas or areas with lots of trees.


Cooper’s hawks are found in open woodlands or deciduous forests. They are now commonly seen near suburban areas and cities, because of the abundance of mourning doves and pigeons.

Diet and Hunting 

Cooper’s hawks use stealth, speed, and the element of surprise to catch their prey. After watching and listening for their prey, a cooper’s hawk uses stealth to sneak up on it, then use their speed to catch the prey. This hunting behavior is extremely dangerous, and many were found with broken bones caused by descending into a cluster of trees to capture their prey.

Cooper’s hawks commonly feast on smaller birds, like pigeons, doves, pheasants, jays, thrushes, and a few more. They are also known to eat raptors(birds of prey) like American kestrels and even sharp-sinned hawks. Mammals they eat include chipmunks, mice, hares, bats, and squirrels. Rarely, they eat reptiles like lizards or snakes.


Nests can be robbed for eggs by raccoons and crows. Adults can be prey to larger raptors like red-tailed hawks, goshawks, golden eagles, and great horned owls.


Cooper’s Hawks build their nests in pines, oaks, furs, and other trees. The nests are usually 2/3’s of the way up, around 25-50 feet high. They hold 3-5 blue eggs that weigh about 1.5 oz(43 grams) each. The hatchlings are about .99 oz(28 grams) and completely covered in white down feathers. They leave the nest and become independent after about 8 weeks.

Behavior and Communication

Cooper’s hawks follow a pattern when flying: a few short wingbeats, then a long glide. Their flying is very quick and agile when chasing prey.

Cooper’s hawks communicate verbally. They cannot communicate by body language as much as vocalization, because the thick vegetation of their habitat prevents them from seeing the display very often. Females, who have a lower pitched call than the male, give call notes when they are allowing a male to approach it.


Cooper’s hawks were once hunted often, and were called chicken hawks. However, cooper’s hawks are very rarely hunted today. The only threat that they are facing is habitat loss.