Know Your Michigan Birds: Cooper’s Hawk

10 January ~ Breakfast (with an Attitude)

10 January ~ Breakfast (with an Attitude), photo by MichaelinA2

All About Birds says that Cooper’s Hawks (known as the Chicken Hawk in England) are among the bird world’s most skillful fliers, tearing through tree canopies in high speed pursuit of other birds. They have more information and hawk calls and offer some fun facts:

  • Dashing through vegetation to catch birds is a dangerous lifestyle. In a study of more than 300 Cooper’s Hawk skeletons, 23 percent showed old, healed-over fractures in the bones of the chest.
  • Once thought averse to towns and cities, Cooper’s Hawks are now fairly common urban and suburban birds.
  • Life is tricky for male Cooper’s Hawks. As in most hawks, males are significantly smaller than their mates. The danger is that female Cooper’s Hawks specialize in eating medium-sized birds. Males tend to be submissive to females and to listen out for reassuring call notes the females make when they’re willing to be approached. Males build the nest, then provide nearly all the food to females and young over the next 90 days before the young fledge.
  • The oldest known Cooper’s Hawk was 20 years, 4 months old. (and apparently good at either providing food or flying fast!)

See Michael’s photo on black and see more in his Top 99 Most Popular Photographs slideshow.

Many more Michigan birds on Michigan in Pictures!

8 thoughts on “Know Your Michigan Birds: Cooper’s Hawk

  1. I LOVE this! I’m totally obsessed with shooting local hawks in their native habitat.Not an easy task for sure, but sometimes you get lucky, like you did here! Nice job and good luck on capturing more!


  2. That’s a beautiful shot of a beautiful bird, but I am pretty sure it is a redtail hawk and not a cooper’s hawk. Cooper’s hawks are greyer, more slender and smaller than the redtail.   Thanks for the daily photos. As a Michigander living in Pittsburgh, the photos remind me of the best things about home.   Thanks, Gavin

    “The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.” – Wendell Berry



  3. Speaking as the photographer, let me thank you for sharing your thoughts and kind words.

    This particular Hawk was in my rear-yard’s wood lot and snow was coming down quite aggressivelyly on a very cold grey day when the image was captured. It did not stick around for more than a few minutes before it was gone.

    I could be wrong ID-ing it as a “Cooper’s Hawk” and will gladly stand corrected. On the other hand, I recall it being very small, much smaller than area Red-tailed Hawks that occasionally frequent my rear-yard, too. Also, it appeared quite similar to a family of Coopers Hawks that took up seasonal residence in a nearby wood lot a while back. I was able to observe and enjoy their antics daily. Finally, I used a telephoto lens that tends to flatten subjects plus I post-process all of my images. This critter’s color may have been slightly lightened and altered as I worked to sharpen contrast and add visual interest. As such, it might not appear to fit the classic form of the species.

    Anyway, before I settled on the ID, I shared the image with some local Audubon Society friends and they seemed to feel Cooper’s Hawk was correct.

    Again, thank you for your comments.

    Cheers and enjoy the season…M


    1. The way to tell that it is a red hawk is that has a belly band (or the streaking around it’s belly and bare patch on its chest with no streaking). Cooper’s hawks are streaked throughout. I can’t tell hawks about by size but the belly band is a for sure way to tell.


  4. Here’s some photos that may shed light – would love to hear from any bird experts as well!

    Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk (Tricky Bird IDs: Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk at Cornell – this is a pretty clear match). Also see immature Cooper’s Hawk at All About Birds .

    Here’s the Red-tailed hawk at All About Birds and What Birds Red-tailed hawk page. On these entries and in the Red tailed hawk images on Google I’m not seeing the same markings.

    Another data point is that Michael says the bird was small, and as he says, Red-tailed hawks are large hawks.

    Finally, in the course of studying the photo I noticed something I missed before – what appears to be blood on the talon!


    1. Thanks for the additional interest, comments and links.

      Yes, the critter appears to have just completed feeding (hence the photograph’s title “Breakfast (with an attitude)”). Note prey remains on its breast feathers, as well as its talons. As you may be aware, when Hawks eat, their food is held in a pouch like organ located in the breast area. The food is slowly released into the stomach over time, thereby allowing the bird to go for several days without feeding again. This expanded pouch, as in this case, appears to have enlarged the breast area and distorted the feather pattern making it seem more white than “normal.”

      Finally, if you click on the image, you will be taken to my Flickr Photostream where you can examine two additional photos of the bird in different poses.

      Again, thanks for the follow-up.

      Cheers and good birding…M


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