An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Cooper’s Hawk

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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Young Cooper’s Hawks Fledging

8-19-14 juvenile cooper's hawk2 306After a month of living in a nest that measures roughly 7 ½ inches across and 3 inches deep, Cooper’s Hawk nestlings are more than ready to stretch their wings. Although they’ve been dismembering prey (mostly birds and a few small mammals brought to them by their parents) since they were three weeks old, catching prey is a skill they have yet to acquire. For roughly ten days after they leave their nest, the young hawks return to it for continued prey deliveries (and for roosting). During this time the fledglings learn to catch their own prey and they become independent, but they continue to stay together near their nest for the next month or so. (Thanks to Marian Boudreault for photo op.)

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.