Cooper's Hawk

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Is the Cooper's Hawk right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Chicken Hawk

Scientific name: Accipiter cooperii

The basics:
Cooper's Hawk is North America's mid-sized Accipiter, with short wings and a long tail that allow it to chase flying prey at high speed through the forest. As a New World species, they were unknown to traditional falconry, but they have become highly valued in modern times because of their agility and boldness. This adaptable woodland hunting hawk is capable of taking advantage of relatively small patches of forest, including urban and suburban parks. Thus, it has become a familiar "hawk" to many North Americans, since it breeds over a wide area of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and it may migrate as far south as Panama in the winter.

Because of the licensing and expertise required to be a responsible owner of a bird of prey, the following information is offered only as a hint of what you will need to learn to work with Cooper's Hawks. There's no substitute for hands-on training, which we strongly recommend that you pursue before trying to acquire any bird of prey.

Adults possess blue-gray upperparts and beautiful rufous and white barred underparts. Females are much larger than males. Although distinguishing wild Cooper's from lookalike Sharp-shinned Hawks can present a challenge to birders, falconers and captive breeders shouldn't confuse them because they don't overlap in size.. Even the largest Sharp-shin female will always be shorter than the smallest Cooper's male.

Male:: 341 grams (12 oz.)
Female: 528 grams (19 oz.)

Average size:
Male: 39 centimeters (15 in.)
Female: 45 centimeters (18 in.)

15 - 20 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Cooper's Hawk can be a tenacious hunter, and if need be, it will make use of its long legs to go into thick cover on foot to capture concealed prey like quail. It is fearless and willing to take very large prey for its size, such as grouse or rabbits. However, that same fearlessness means that they can be difficult and extremely assertive or aggressive birds, so they are generally recommended to the more experienced falconer.

Cooper's Hawks are well-adapted to temperament climates and can tolerate more warmth than more northerly birds like the Goshawk, but make sure these forest birds have protection from direct sunlight. Like most other birds of prey, they are water bathers and will need a bath for the purpose.

The Cooper's Hawk is a carnivore that needs to consume some whole prey in order to allow its digestive system to work properly. In the wild, this talented predator often captures small woodland birds. In captivity, it has done well on legal (unprotected) introduced wild bird species such as House sparrows, European starlings, and feral pigeons. They should also be provided with water.

Written by Elaine Radford

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