California Raptor Center

Cooper's Hawk

Scientific Name: Accipiter cooperii
(Accipiter is Latin for ‘hawk’, cooperii is for the ornithologist William Cooper).

Size: Length: 14-19in Wingspan: 28-34in        

Weight: Female: 460-588g (~1-1.3lb) Male: 297-380g (~0.65lb-0.84lb)

Lifespan: In both the wild and captivity, these birds can live up to twelve years. Their average lifespan in the wild is only a little more than a year.

ID: Cooper’s Hawks have large heads that extend beyond the wrist (where the flight feathers begin) when they glide. Adults have darker coloring than juveniles. Juveniles have light brown feathers on their backs and lightly spotted undersides. Adults have dark gray backs and light, slightly orange-red undersides. Both have black and white stripes along the underside of their flight feathers, as well as rounded, striped tails.

Hunting: These birds hunt by ambushing prey or approaching it with a great deal of stealth. They have been known to chase prey on foot, and also take it to bodies of water and drown it. They occasionally tail-chase birds.

Prey: Their diet is made up of birds, such as jays and robins.

Breeding: Cooper’s Hawks are monogamous and mate for life. They build large nests of sticks, generally in trees. Females lay clutches of 3 to 6 eggs in early March; these eggs hatch after 32 to 36 days. The chicks leave the nest 27 to 34 days after hatching, though they do not become fully independent for about eight weeks.

Range: They are partial migrators, meaning that some of the population remains in the same location all year and some moves with the seasons. They are found across the United States and Mexico.

Status: They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.