Cooper’s Hawk

Accipiter cooperii

Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii Atlanta, GA - Peachtree Park - May 23, 2014

Cooper’s Hawk – Accipiter cooperii

We see and hear about Cooper’s Hawks very often here. On a walk late one afternoon in the spring of 2015, three juveniles were camped out and having a great time playing on the front porch of a house on Dale Drive.  And a neighbor across the street used to tell us that a pair would show up on their deck railing from time to time.

It was once thought that Cooper’s Hawks stayed away from towns and cities, but now they are fairly common.  Some studies show that their numbers are actually higher in urban areas that in the forests. [3]  These birds have adapted very well to urban life.  One unfortunate thing is that they have learned that bird feeders are good hunting spots and will pick off songbirds when they come to feed. It’s nature.

Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii Atlanta, GA - Peachtree Park - July 12, 2014

Cooper’s Hawk from the roof top

Small and agile, we watched as one Cooper’s Hawk flew through a large culvert under a driveway. He was probably hunting something in the creek that ran through the Culvert, but imagine what skill that took flying at a high rate of speed.  Cornell’s All About Birds site says they are among the world’s most skillful fliers. [1]

In Atlanta, there are two genera of hawk: Accipiter and Buteo. Of the three species of Accipiter, two could be seen here – the Cooper’s and the Sharp-shinned.  These two hawks look almost identical except that Sharp-shinned’s tail is a little more square and a Sharp-shinned is considerably smaller.  If in doubt, our neighborhood ornithologist friend says that Sharp-shinned Hawks have not been seen in this neck of the woods for a while, so you are probably seeing a Cooper’s.

Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii Atlanta, GA - Peachtree Park - July 30, 2014

Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s Hawk is  a bird of prey, or raptor.  Birds of prey include hawks, eagles, buzzards, harriers, kites, ospreys and falcons. [2]  As in many birds of prey, the male is smaller than the female.

The mainstay of the Cooper’s Hawk diet is miedum-sized birds, however they will also eat chipmunks, hares, mice, squirrels, and bats. [3]

You won’t hear a Cooper’s much after breeding season, but in the spring their calls are clear and distinctive.  Cornell’s All About Birds site has some great recordings of Cooper’s Hawk calls. [4]

Cooper's Hawk

Juvenile Cooper’s on a front porch

In the spring of 2015 we were keeping tabs on a nest high in the pines between Darlington Road and Darlington Circle.  Chicks were in the nest and we could see the parents working hard to keep them fed.  Then one morning we heard the chain saws.  On a nearby site with new construction, pines were being removed not 100 feet away from the nest.  We tried to stop it, but had no luck with that.  Fortunately, the trees with the nest were not cut,  but this year the nesting pair has moved.

The video below is of a Cooper’s Hawk eating freshly killed prey.

References and Additional Information

[1] Cornell – All About Birds: Cooper’s Hawk
[2] Wikipedia: Bird of Prey
[3] Wikipedia : Cooper’s Hawk
[4] Cornell – All About Birds: Cooper’s Hawk – sounds