Cooper's hawk, Accipiter cooperii, is a medium-sized migratory bird found in forests in Northern and Central America. The bird typically ranges from 14 to 21 inches (about 35 to 53 centimeters) long, possessing a wingspan of 27 to 36 inches (about 69 to 91 centimeters). An adept flier with small, rounded wings, the Cooper's hawk was named after William Cooper, who helped identify the species in the 1820s.
The hawk is commonly found in urban and suburban areas in southern Canada, throughout the United States, and Mexico. The bird is also found in Central America, down through Costa Rica. Northern populations of the hawk migrate more often than southern inhabitants. Hawks in the eastern part of the United States typically migrate to central and southern areas of the United States, and birds from the western part of the United States fly south to central and southern Mexico during the winter.
Also known as the big blue darter, the Cooper's hawk has bluish gray upper parts and a white underbelly. The hawk has a distinctive tail that alternates between dark and gray colors, with a noticeable white band at the end. Adult females tend to be about a third larger than males. The bird also possesses sharp talons to easily seize its prey, and a hooked bill that helps rip the flesh of its victims.
Typically, the Cooper's hawk will kill its prey by squeezing it to death, biting, or even drowning. The hawk's diet consists mostly of other medium-sized birds including robins, meadowlarks, and blackbirds. The hawk also feeds on a variety of other animals, including chipmunks, mice, and squirrels, as well as insects, lizards, and bats.
The duty of building a nest typically falls to the male. Nests are built from sticks that are about 27 inches (about 68 centimeters) wide and about 20 to 60 feet (about 6 to 18 meters) above ground in dense, wooded areas. The birds often build their nests in trees like pines, oaks, beeches, and spruces. Hawks generally go back to the same breeding area every year, but they typically find a different mate for each next season.
The female Cooper's hawk will lay up to six eggs, which take a little more than a month to hatch. When the young are born, they have a coating of white down and weigh about 1 ounce (about 28 grams). Females brood while the males catch the food for their young. In a little more than a month, the small hawks will leave the nest.