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Cooper's Hawk Family Visits ANHC Director at Home

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Friday, October 09, 2020

This summer, ANHC Director Bill Holimon and his wife, Devon, were visited at their home by three juvenile Cooper’s hawks (Accipiter cooperii). The Cooper’s hawks stayed in the area for at least three weeks, giving the Holimons a front-row seat to their activities and several photo opportunities.

The Cooper’s hawks that visited Bill and Devon’s home had likely fledged nearby. They often perched on a redbud tree in the Holimons’ backyard. Even though Cooper’s hawks primarily eat birds, Devon determined that these juveniles were tracking chipmunks in a burrow below the tree.

“We haven’t seen a chipmunk in quite a while,” Bill said.

Greatly affected by the insecticide DDT, Cooper’s hawks essentially disappeared as a nesting bird in Arkansas in the early 1990s. Successfully recovered, they are now a fairly common breeder, including in towns and cities across the state and other parts of the country. The species is protected by the United States Migratory Bird Act. DDT was banned from use in the U.S. in 1972.

Moving from perch to perch in dense cover, Cooper’s hawks hunt by stealth. They also will fly low at times, using trees, shrubs, or even buildings as cover while searching for and pursuing prey. When ready, they exhibit a burst of speed and overtake their prey, usually birds and occasionally small mammals. A medium-sized hawk, Cooper’s have short, rounded wings and a long tail. The rounded tail feathers differentiate it from a similar, but smaller species, the Sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus).

Female Cooper’s hawks may be up to one-third larger than males, one of the most observable differences between sexes of any hawk species. A pair of Cooper’s hawks typically mates for life. Both parents provide food until the chicks become independent, usually around about 8 weeks of age.

Cooper’s hawks are partial migrants with populations from northern states moving south after summer; birds occur in Arkansas year-round and include resident birds and migrants. The Holimons observed the juveniles in their yard daily until the birds dispersed from the area.

Photos:

Top - Juvenile female Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii). Females may be up to one-third larger than males, one of the most observable differences between sexes of any hawk species. Photo by Bill Holimon.

Middle - Juvenile male Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii). The rounded tail feathers of the Cooper's hawk differentiate it from a similar but smaller species, the Sharp-shinned hawk (Accipter striatus). Photo by Bill Holimon.



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