Bird of the Week: Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s Hawk is a member of the genus Accipiter, a close cousin to larger hawks like the Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, and Broad-winged Hawk. Accipiters are distinguished by smaller wings and a longer tail, which suggests that this bird relies more on its maneuverability than sheer power in hunting. In fact, while they may not be the largest or fastest raptors, Cooper’s Hawks are among the world’s best fliers, and their consummate skill in navigating tangled woodland understory allows them to catch prey that would easily elude a larger, slower bird. Their ability to maintain top speed while darting through the canopy comes at a price: in a study of 300 individuals, about a quarter of the hawks showed healed fractures from collisions. Cooper’s Hawks were once shy of human encroachment and avoided towns and cities, but they seem to have noticed that urban environments are well-stocked with their favorite food, doves and pigeons. Today, they are common in urban areas, and some studies suggest that, like Americans in general, their populations may now be larger in urban areas than in rural ones.

Compiled by Owen Moorhead. Sources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.
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