Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Cooper's Hawk - Avian Ninja

The Cooper’s hawk is one of the most common hawks in the United States, yet I’m willing to bet most people have never seen one in person in the wild. Unlike other common birds of prey such as red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s hawks prefer dense woods and are brown/grey in color, giving them a sort of natural camouflage. Their coloring, dense habitat and stealthy hunting style may make them the ultimate ninja of the bird world.
Cooper’s hawks are avivores, meaning they feed primarily on other birds. They hunt by quietly gliding near the edge of the woods looking for a meal, then swooping in to surprise their prey. The prey bird (robins and pheasants are a favorite) will naturally attempt to evade the predator, but cannot escape from the much faster Cooper’s hawk, which can fly at incredible speeds through dense woods just inches away from trees and branches. That’s not to say that this hunting style isn’t dangerous for the hawk. Cooper’s hawks can and do injure themselves by flying into trees during these pursuits, often resulting in broken bones.

The most likely place to see a Cooper’s hawk is in your own backyard, especially if you have a birdfeeder. Heavily wooded suburbs have become an ideal second habitat for Cooper’s hawks, as large populations of backyard songbirds make for easy meals. If you do happen to see a Cooper’s hawk perched in your backyard close to the birdfeeder, you can be sure that he’s not after birdseed!

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