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Cooper's Hawk


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Among the bird world’s most skillful fliers, Cooper’s Hawks are common woodland hawks that tear through cluttered tree canopies in high speed pursuit of other birds. You’re most likely to see one prowling above a forest edge or field using just a few stiff wingbeats followed by a glide. With their smaller lookalike, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawks make for famously tricky identifications. Both species are sometimes unwanted guests at bird feeders, looking for an easy meal (but not one of sunflower seeds).

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Backyard Tips

If you put out seed for birds in your backyard, there’s a chance you’ll also attract the attention of a Cooper’s Hawk. While catching smaller birds is just doing what comes naturally for a Cooper’s Hawk, many of us would prefer not to share the responsibility for the deaths. If a Cooper’s Hawk takes up residence in your yard, you can take your feeders down for a few days and the hawk will move on.

Find This Bird

Finding a Cooper’s Hawk is typically a matter of keeping your eyes peeled – they’re common but stealthy, and smaller than other common hawks like the red-tailed, so your eye might skip over them in flight. Look for the flap-flap-glide flight style and remarkably long tail to zero in on these birds in an instant. During migration, hawkwatches on ridgetops in both East and West are great places to see lots of Cooper's Hawks.

Get Involved

Keep track of your Cooper's Hawk sightings online with eBird for your personal records – and for the birding community

Watch your feeders this winter and report your bird counts to Project FeederWatch

Learn more about bird photography in our Building Skills section. Then contribute your images to the Birdshare flickr site, which helps supply the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's websites with photos, including All About Birds.

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Behavior—like the Cooper's Hawk's flap-flap-glide flight style—is indispensable in identifying birds. Watch our Inside Birding video series to learn how—right from your computer.

Project Feederwatch's Tricky IDs comparison page: Sharp-shinned vs. Cooper's Hawks

More tips on identification from the Great Backyard Bird Count

Q&A: Hawks at Feeders

Explore sounds and video of Cooper's Hawks from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library archive

Silent Alert: An appreciation of the Cooper's Hawk. Story and photos in Living Bird magazine.