Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

January 17, 2011

Another Backyard Cooper’s Hawk

Filed under: backyard, behavior, Birds — richditch @ 6:54 pm
Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Anybody who feeds birds in their backyard has probably noticed that seed eaters aren’t the only species attracted. When we lived in New Jersey and put out thousands of pounds of sunflower seed each winter we’d have regular visits from Sharp-shinned Hawks and less regular vists from their larger cousins the Cooper’s Hawk, all looking for the chance to take a smaller bird brought into the open by the seed.

Here in Phoenix we have fewer birds, fewer species, and use a lot less seed (and just mixed seed instead of the more expensive black-oil sunflower seed). Our most common seed eater is the abundant Mourning Dove, with anywhere from two to two dozen Gambel’s Quail, a small number of Inca Doves, the inevitable House Sparrows, a couple Abert’s Towhees, etc.

We also attract accipiters just as we did in NJ, but the percentages are reversed with Cooper’s Hawk surpassing the smaller Sharp-shinned by a wide margin. This winter we’ve had both an adult (only a few visits) and this juvenile (almost daily now).

Unlike the coops we’ve had in previous years this bird quickly became comfortable with my camera (and me). At first the hawk would bolt as soon as I approached the patio door, but over the past 10 days or so it has been comfortable enough to sit and watch as I slowly exit onto the patio with my gear.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Immature Cooper’s Hawk has brown vertical “streaking” on the breast and yellow eyes as seen in these images; an adult has reddish “barring” on the breast with orange-red eyes.

Cooper’s Hawks are larger than the very similar Sharp-shinned Hawk, with a more rounded tail tip and a larger head that makes the eye look smaller and closer to the beak. Using the height of the concrete blocks in the top image (8 inches) this juvenile bird’s size is about 17.25 inches tall supporting the identification as a female Cooper’s Hawk.

Top image: January 8, 2011 @ 3:40 pm, Nikon D200, 300mm Nikkor AF-S, ISO 400, 1/500th second @ f/4.5, tripod.

Bottom image: January 12, 2011 @ 2:00 pm, Nikon D200, 300mm Nikkor AF-S, ISO 400, 1/125th second @ f/11, tripod, fill flash, full frame. Taken at 21 feet standing in the open for at least 30 minutes.



  1. I love your images they are really cool did you take them yourself?

    Comment by Sam — January 29, 2011 @ 3:40 pm

  2. Yes, as indicated by the copyright notice on every image.

    Comment by richditch — January 29, 2011 @ 5:23 pm

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