Cooper’s hawks (Accipiter cooperi) remain in our area throughout the year. They often sit in the cottonwoods next to the house watching for prey. This Cooper’s hawk, however, was photographed near Baum Lake (Shasta County CA).
Cooper’s hawks hunt by perching and then quickly swooping down to seize their prey. Considered a woodland raptor, Cooper’s hawks are agile fliers that can skillfully fly through the tree canopy when pursuing a meal. Their long, rounded tails act as rudders aiding maneuverability. They capture prey with their feet and kill by repeatedly squeezing their victim. They have also been known to hold their prey underwater until it drowns.
The diet of a Cooper’s hawk consists mainly of medium-sized birds such as starlings, robins, mourning doves, pigeons and some jays. They also rob nests and take small mammals.
Cooper’s hawks are adapting to urban and suburban environments wherever there are trees. They also frequent bird feeders, not eating the seeds but rather hunting other birds that come to feed.
These year-long residents are interesting to watch in the winter when the lack of leaves makes them more visible.