This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the Cooper’s hawk.
Feeding songbirds can have unintended consequences which pose a danger to them. Predators like the Cooper’s hawk may also find a meal at bird feeders. Small to midsized songbirds and raptors, chipmunks, squirrels, mice and bats are all potential meals for this hawk.
A woodland hawk, the concentration of birds at feeders has made Cooper’s hawks now fairly common in urban and suburban environments. They hunt with stealth and speed, perching quietly before bursting out in a surprise attack to capture fleeing prey.
This member of the accipiter family breeds across most of the United States, southern Canada and northern Mexico. They are typically year-round residents in their breeding territory. Nest building and providing food is the male’s job, with incubation and care of chicks the female’s. Since small raptors can be prey of the Cooper’s hawk, the male approaches the nest with caution and is submissive to the larger female, to avoid being mistaken for dinner.
Adult Cooper’s hawks are crow-sized birds with bluish-gray upper parts, a black cap, red eyes and light-colored underparts covered by dense reddish barring. The Cooper’s long, rounded tail has three black bands and a broad white tip. Even accomplished birders are challenged in distinguishing a Cooper’s hawk from the nearly identical, but smaller, sharp-shinned hawk.
Observing birds at feeders is a fun way to become familiar with their appearances and habits. We can reduce hazards to the birds in our yards by providing cover, keeping feeders and the areas below them clean, keeping cats inside and treating glass to prevent collisions.
For information on events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.