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Cooper’s Hawk

by Jacob Crider

The Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperi) is a native raptor ranging across the entire U.S, most of Mexico, and southern Canada. They live year round in the state of Kentucky. These hawks prefer woodlands, parks, and neighborhoods where they specialize in hunting small songbirds and occasionally will feed on mammals. They are agile predators that are adapted to flying quickly through dense woodlands and thickets to hunt, where they are able to chase down other birds and ambush their prey.

Cooper’s Hawks are medium sized and have a more streamlined and petite shape when compared to other hawks in other region such as the Red-tailed Hawk and Red-shouldered Hawk in the genus Buteo. In Kentucky, they are closest related to the Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatum) which are less common and usually only seen in winter months. They have barred, squared off tails that may fan out slightly while in flight, a rusty red chest and a dark grey back. When they are young they have grayish eyes, and once they reach maturity they develop piercing red eyes. They create platform nests up in trees, where they lay 1 brood of 2-4 eggs per year.

Their calls are a fast and shrieking “cack-cack-cack-cack” similar to Northern Flickers and Pilieated Woodpeckers.

At CMNP and around the community, these hawks are common to see in urban areas where they will pick off birds at feeders. While they prefer forested habitats, they can also be seen along the woodlands edge, wetlands, and flying over meadows.

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