Cooper's hawk

COMMON NAME: Cooper’s hawkCooper's Hawk

Accipiter cooperii

Medium-sized hawk from 14 to 20 inches in length. The adults have a gray/blue back. The underside is white, horizontally streaked with rufous bars. The head has a black cap, and there are three black bands on the tail. The outer tail feathers are shorter than the rest of the tail feathers, giving the tail a rounded appearance, which—apart from size—is the only way to distinguish this bird from the sharp-shinned hawk. Males and females look the same, but the female is about one-third larger than the male. The immature birds are brown above and vertically streaked with brown below. The adult's eye is orange to red; immature birds have yellow eyes.

RANGE:Cooper's Hawk Baby

A North American species, Cooper’s hawks breed from southern Canada to the southern part of the United States. They are migratory, but a few remain in Minnesota throughout the winter.


A forest-dwelling bird found in deciduous woodlands but also seen in urban areas. Not uncommon around farm woodlots.


Cooper’s hawks build a stick nest high in the middle of a deciduous tree, usually in the crotch, where it lays from two to five eggs. Cooper's hawks are known to return to the same area to nest year after year, although recent studies have shown that individual birds change mates and nest sites frequently in succeeding years.


Known as a predator of birds, the Cooper’s hawk also feeds on mammals, particularly squirrels and chipmunks. Once known as a regular denizen of poultry yards, it is one of many “chicken hawks.”

RAPTOR CENTER DATA:Cooper's Hawk Skull

An uncommon patient that requires solitude and careful handling.


Populations of the Cooper's hawk were thought to be declining as early as the 1930s. This species has suffered greatly from persecution due to its poultry-eating habits. It has also suffered from habitat destruction.