An autumn visit to a New Jersey Hawk watch will often yield the beautiful sight of a Cooper’s Hawk circling overhead. I have to admit. The sight of a Cooper’s Hawk is one of my favorites. For some reason I’ve gotten it into my head that the “Coop” is a photographer friendly bird
I have been leaning more about the Cooper’s Hawk lately. Here are some of the things that I have learned:
- Cooper’s Hawks prey on small to mid-sized birds. They capture their prey while flying quickly through dense vegetation, relying almost totally on surprise. One study showed the danger of this hunting style. More than 300 Cooper’s Hawk skeletons were investigated and 23% revealed healed fractures in the bones of the chest, especially of the furcula or wishbone.
- A Cooper’s Hawk may also prey upon the American Kestrels and other smaller raptors, including their cousin the Sharp-shinned Hawk.
- A Cooper’s Hawk normally catches its prey with its feet and kills it by repeatedly squeezing it and holding it away from its body until it dies. They have also been seen drowning their prey, holding it underwater until it stops moving.
- A Cooper’s Hawks often pluck the feathers off their prey on a post or other perch before eating it.
- A Cooper’s Hawk’s courtship displays include stylized flights with the wings positioned in a deep arc. During their flight displays the male will begin by diving toward the female. A slow speed-chase follows involving the male flying around the female exposing his expanded under tail coverts to her. The male raises his wings high above the back and flies in a wide arc with slow, rhythmic flapping. Courting usually occurs on bright, sunny days, in midmorning. After pairing has occurred, the males make a bowing display before beginning to build the nest.
- Males are usually submissive to females and will listen for reassuring call notes the females make when they are willing to be approached.
- The males have a higher pitched voice than females.
- Cooper’s Hawks have been known to live as long as 12 years in the wild. The oldest known living Cooper’s Hawk was 20 years and 4 months old
The chart below shows the numbers of Cooper’s Hawks that have been counted at the Picatinny Peak, Raccoon Ridge, Scott’s Mountain, Sunrise Mountain, and Wildcat Ridge Hawk watches in Northwest New Jersey.
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