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Cooper’s Hawk Preys On Pileated Woodpecker

1-12-18 cooper's and pileated IMG_4375Cooper’s Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks and Goshawks are the three accipiters (a category of hawks possessing long tails and relatively short, rounded wings) found in New England. The one you’re most likely to see is the Cooper’s Hawk. Built for speed and maneuverability, these raptors are able to fly incredibly fast through the woods as they search for prey in amongst trees. Their diet consists largely of birds, but they also have been known to consume mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and fish.

You may have seen a Cooper’s Hawk perched near your feeder, or perhaps have been witness to an explosion of feathers after a songbird was captured by one, but for the most part, medium-size birds such as Mourning Doves, European Starlings, Northern Flickers, Ruffed Grouse and American Crows are preferred.

On a winter day several years ago, the pictured Cooper’s Hawk captured, killed and ate a Pileated Woodpecker, an unusually large prey that is about the same size as the hawk that caught it. Chances are great that this is a female Cooper’s Hawk, as female raptors are generally larger than males, and therefore capable of capturing larger prey.

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12 responses

  1. Marilyn

    That’s life, but it makes me sad. Pleated woodpeckers are special birds and seem to be more numerous. But so are Cooper’s hawks. And everyone needs to eat …

    January 15, 2018 at 7:50 am

    • Alice Pratt

      I feel the same way….there’s something ‘disturbing’ to me about birds eating other birds…but in a way no different than mammals eating mammals or fish eating other fish…and hard to think about about what humans do…😬🙁🤭 most of us eat all of the above…

      January 15, 2018 at 8:17 am

  2. Wow, Mary! What a catch–no pun intended; but applies both to the photographer and the Cooper’s hawk. Sad, but as Marilyn said (above) “everyone needs to eat…”

    January 15, 2018 at 8:10 am

  3. The female of the raptors is usually larger than the male because she has has to produce and carry the rather large egg.

    January 15, 2018 at 8:11 am

  4. Tucker and ELi Holland

    ELi and I saw a Coopers Hawk here on Nantucket last weekend. Fun to see this post today!

    January 15, 2018 at 8:19 am

  5. Laurie Spry

    That is an amazing photo, wowee! Yes, BIG prey for the hawk…

    January 15, 2018 at 8:43 am

  6. jon pringle

    I remember a hawk taking a harry woodpecker from our suet feeder along the deck railing. Never saw the hawk at close range although earlier in the day there were two cruising above. Prolonged cold and deep snow had severely limited their food supply. I was inside and heard a loud thud outside the kitchen window. Inspected the deck and found woodpecker feathers nothing else!

    January 15, 2018 at 10:37 am

  7. I love this photo Mary!

    January 15, 2018 at 10:43 am

  8. Sue Wetmore

    That is some Thanksgiving feast!

    January 15, 2018 at 1:35 pm

  9. Kinda sad but hey it has to eat … fascinating as always …

    January 15, 2018 at 7:47 pm

  10. Virginia Cazort

    This is a daily posting of some curious phenomenon. You might be interested in cluttering your screen with it.VC

    January 16, 2018 at 7:58 am

  11. Jennifer Waite

    Wow, amazing photo Mary!

    January 17, 2018 at 3:20 pm

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