When Cooper’s Hawks nest in your neighborhood

By Clay Christensen

For the past several weeks, I have not been seeing as many birds at my feeders as I usually do.

When I refilled my feeders the other day, I noticed the platform feeder looked like it had hardly been touched. The oriole/hummingbird feeder, with nectar and grape jelly, had no evidence of activity beyond the few beak marks left in the jelly the first day I filled it.

And I think I know the reason: There’s a pair of Cooper’s Hawks that have built a nest in the neighborhood.

Cooper’s Hawks are accipiters, birds that hunt other birds. The word accipiter comes from a Latin verb meaning “to seize.”

The songbirds must have seen the Cooper’s and decided it’s too risky to try to peck at seed from a feeder while constantly looking over their shoulders. One of the Cooper’s will perch in a giant maple tree across the street from where it can survey the feeders in my yard.

Pete Dunne, renowned ornithologist, describes the Cooper’s Hawk as shaped like a bowling pin.

And, as an added bonus, the hawk can turn its head around and watch the chickens in my neighbor’s yard. The chickens are kept in a coop, but are still probably very tempting to the hawks.

The Cooper’s has the nickname “Chicken Hawk” and it’s apparently well deserved.

I was walking my pup, Rocky, down the street for his afternoon walk when I saw a Cooper’s Hawk fly across the street. The hawk was flying low to the ground, carrying something. This was just about 200 feet ahead of us.

As I watched, another critter came from the same direction, zipped across the street and headed toward where the hawk had gone. It was followed by another Cooper’s Hawk. What was going on?

My neighbor, Tyler, who owns the lot on which the hawks’ nest tree stands, came out into his yard and I asked him if he had seen what I’d seen.

Tyler said the Cooper’s Hawks had been having an animated argument about some prey one of them had caught. One fled with the prize, apparently a baby bunny.

The other critter I’d seen was a rabbit chasing after the first hawk! I’ve never seen a rabbit chase anything but another rabbit. I was very impressed by the apparent parental instinct of protection that the rabbit showed.

Tyler had no report on the final disposition of the baby bunny, but I’m certain it was grim.

Two of my neighbors have reported seeing a smaller Cooper’s Hawk chasing a red squirrel in a tree in their yards.

The first neighbor described seeing a squirrel in a pine tree, circling around the trunk, running up and down the tree, all the while dodging the hawk flapping around the tree trying to get an open shot at the squirrel. The squirrel survived the ordeal.

The second neighbor watched a hawk/squirrel encounter in their large silver maple tree in their front yard. The husband, Drew, said his wife, Marisa, was on team squirrel! And the squirrel did outlast its pursuer.

I’ve read that Cooper’s Hawks use squirrels as training for their youngsters. A squirrel could be a dangerous catch; they’ve got teeth and could bite off a hawk’s leg if given the opportunity. But the exercise of chasing one around a tree helps when it comes to trying to nab elusive prey.

Another neighbor, Kiera, was on her knees planting flowers in her front yard, when she heard and felt a bird fly right over her head. It was a Cooper’s Hawk, chasing a blackbird. She heard a thump and thinks the bird hit the neighbor’s window.

That’s a common hunting technique used by Coopers: drive the prey into a window they don’t see. There are tales of a Cooper’s driving a bird into the windshield of a parked car.

I can recognize a Cooper’s Hawk in flight because it’s all business. They fly lower than most birds, below the tree line, making a direct flight from point A to point B. No meandering, and very fast. It says, “I’m gonna go kill something!” And they fly back with their victim in the same way: low, direct, and fast.

Describing how Coopers dispatch their victims makes me a little queasy. They lay the prey bird on its back and then stand on its chest, suffocating it to death. I just think how horrible it must be to slowly die facing a Cooper’s Hawk looking down at you. I guess that’s Nature, red in tooth and claw.

The Cooper’s call is a kek-kek-kek-kek, about four per second. The male often uses a single kek just to check in with his mate and let her know where he is.

When I hear any of this kek-ing, I start looking for Cooper’s—and hoping any nearby prey are too!

Clay Christensen, a longtime birder, lives in and writes for the Bugle from Lauderdale.

92 Responses

  1. Nelson Briefer

    The paragraph the fourth from the end is precise – spot on. Nelson Briefer-Anacortes Wa. NG Specialist.

  2. Sharon

    I was walking my dog down a path that is behind our apartment. It has a little water way with lots of trees. The first time a hawk flew right over heads , very low to another tree. We had numerous birds, squirrels, and rabbits. Yesterday we were walking through the same path and heard the hawks, this time the one flew into the tree a few feet in front of me, my husband was on the deck and said, he went up that tree. The funny thing is I heard a few birds squaking and did not here the hawk. He/she was very quiet. I love nature and the way it changes every season. I noticed that every time a hawk came around they were there for a few months and left to go somewhere else. I live in Tennessee and love everything about it. The people are friendly, the beautiful Smokey Mountains, and especially the changing of the seasons. Oh, and let’s not forget the many animals that have made their homes here. I think when we try to change the environment (building etc.) We ruin everything that is meant for our enjoyment. We need to keep the balance and understand what we take away from their homes, end up taking over our homes.
    Sharon

  3. Susan

    I’ve had a pair of Cooper’s nest in my neighborhood for several years now, and while it was once interesting to me, I feel differently this year. I have a feeder and adore the songbirds. Titmice/titmouses (?) seem extremely scarce this summer and I don’t believe they’re just staying clear.
    The Coopers devour their prey on the utility pole on the corner of my driveway and there are days that it has been “snowing” feathers. My yard has been covered, not to mention the day I left for work and found my white car covered, and I do mean covered, with gray feathers, other body parts (titmouse I’m sure) and dried pellets. I froze, thinking someone had vandalized my car for a quick second.
    I’m fascinated by nature, and understand the order of the food chain, but I’ve really come to despise these hawks and their disturbing calls, for the smaller songbirds sake.

  4. Ed Peterson

    SAME THING HERE AT MY FEEDER!!!!
    For several weeks , nothing has been coming in and I have heard the hawks but only saw them once….. Not even the dozen plus blue jays are coming in anymore ☹️☹️☹️

  5. Mark Falcon

    To Beth W. Your comment regarding your background was spit on regarding hawks and their prey. I live near the north coast bog Ohio, and I have never seen so many raptors in my life, and we live in the city. The hawks have chased the sparrows and squirrels, but I have also seen a flock of grackles or starling chasing the hawks. The blue jays sound the alarms when a hawk is in the vicinity. I have even walked up one when it was hunting the house sparrows that empty my feeders. So for you folks that either chase , shoot or try to kill a raptor, they are one of God’s creatures, and if you kill them, we’ll you are going to have to answer for that. As far as feeding the birds, I will back off and sanitize my feeders. Thank you Beth for the educational comment. Mark “Birdman” Falcon

  6. Doug

    I had a pair nesting and raising young 209 feet from my house. The smaller birds hummingbirds and crows never stopped their activity. They did however keep a watchful eye out.

  7. Johanna

    Thank you for your amazing report, very enlightening. I live a mile away from down town Los Angeles. My first experience with a Robin hawk was when one entered my house. Chaos broke down, my dogs chased after him, in order to protect the hawk I managed to grab him, carried him on my chest and released him outside my door. Such an amazing experience, I still can’t believe he flew right into my house. I like birds so I didn’t mind getting his claws on my hands. A few more have started to settle here sadly that had reduced the amount of birds in my community.

  8. Judy gregory

    Not sure if this is typical but two summers this one and last a family of five two adults and three young are residents here on the property. Watching them teach their young ones is rewarding and also a bit sad as you witness others perish. But they too can get used to your presence. They’d find me and sit in the trees watching me work. Very cool and a bit unsettling. Those eyes staring can pierce right through you. But they r beautiful.

  9. Hi Clay – Just came across your article on Cooper’s Hawks and found it very interesting as it hit close to home. Our feeders are staying full and even the squirrel’s are staying away. We call the backyard “The Killing Field”. Thank you for helping us to understand what is happening.
    Carol Rossi (Joshua’s other Grandma)

  10. Mercy

    We had one by our house on a tree across the street. I would see it once in awhile from my kitchen window on the second from our loft. A hen abandoned a chick that started taking care of in our second bathroom making a bed of hay for it in our tube with food and water for a month. One day whole l was at work my husband decided to put the little chick outside and went for one second side our neighbors apartment to talk to her. Went came back out the chick was no where to be found. I asked him what happened and if it was probably one of the cats. Unfortunately he did mention he heard a kekking sound after stepping out into the frontyard. I was so upset it with him. All l could tell him is he wemt against my wishes because l told him to keep chick in the bathroom at all times. 😑

  11. Christy odum

    I live in South GA and we have all kind of hawks around us .Red wing hawks fly and look and sound the same. They hunt the same, but about a month ago I seen a hawk fly in and get face to face with a big rabbit and then the rabbit turned around and chased it into the wood line and the next thing I know about 7 mocking birds was chasing that same clear across the rd. I keep my chickens in there coops because they get killed by hawks if I don’t. They kill things bad when it’s raining or cold because that’s the only way to keep warm . so if it’s cloudy or raining or just a little chilly you can bet you will see or hear one . they’re several types around our area. They are very bad if you have small animals or any of your smaller live stock. It’s awful at what they can do at times they are a predator.

  12. Is it against the law to remove the hawks? Either by capturing them or with a shotgun. I would not allow a predator to stay in my neighborhood. It’s being cruel to the other birds and small animals.

  13. Lori Martin

    Thank you, very good article you have written on this excellent hunter!! ,😬 🙏 My innocent little birds have experienced unfortunately these hunters in the past. Still they are a magnificent creation by God!!

  14. Kelly

    Truly enjoyed this article. I am fascinated with Hawks & my area has quite a variety Redtail ,Coopers & Sharp shinned. Unfortunately their habitat has been destroyed to make way for new homes ,the lots were filled with trees over a 100 yrs old since their great loss the hawks no longer have a home . Collectively we tried everything to save some sadly to no avail Now we are heartbroken & overwhelmed with voles as well as other critters that these magnificent birds dealt with naturally. Now I have to travel outside my neighborhood to see these magnificent birds only upside is the neighborhood chickens no longer have to wear protective gear & can feel safe .

  15. Gloria Sullivan

    Hello Clay,
    I wa excited to see this article! Live here in gated Community in Seal Beach, CA. This place is loaded with trees and small parks. Since I moved here 3 yrs ago, I found this areas full of birds & squirrels, to my delight.
    I have been been a hobby birder since I was 12.
    This year , beginning early spring, 2 Cooper hawks showed with two younger immatures( born previous year).
    Their whistles were heard everywhere.
    First, I began to notice the bluebirds only showed up for a couple of weeks. I didn’t find anyone who noticed the same thing. I noticed. A couple of trees near me; they Al kept showing up at different times. The squirrels were going down in number; didn’t know why! Then sparrows, all kinds of finches, pine siskens, all disappearing too! fFinally, about 6 weeks ago, when I stepped outside, there were no birds, not even phoebe flycatchers were anywhere( but the harems were clearly still here. 6 weeks ago the coyotes began their annual prowl through here looking for bunnies & “ whatever”..
    One day, a coyote was coming through when one of the adult Cooper hawks (flying low) looked like was chasing the coyote?? The hawk looked he was going to get at the coyote, when the coyote turned and grabbed the hawk into his mouth. Ultimately, the coyote took the head off & tossed the rest of the bird!!
    I was kind of stunned, never imagining that kind of nature scenario.
    Just 3 days ago, noticed all the hawks gone; the birds coming back I was so excited!!
    Thank you for your article.I learned more about those C Hawks, now!

  16. Jeff

    There is a pair across the street from me in a large Eucalyptus. It’s amazing to watch them hunt, they grab birds right out of the sky!

  17. Sue

    We have red tail hawks in my community here in NC. Two were fighting it out over a squirrel on the golf course. My ball landed 5 feet away from the altercation and the struggle never stopped as I struck my ball right next to them. Very brazen.

  18. Stew

    I know what you mean. I live in North St louis. And I have 2 pr of Sharp Shinned hawks in the neighborhood. They make frequent raids on my bird feeders in the winter. Saw one the other day with a bird it had caught.

  19. Jeff

    We had a pair until last year and they totally wiped out the Eurasian Collared Doves.
    It was very much appreciated.

  20. Blondie

    Very interesting! I too haven’t seen the birds that used to be here in my yard. But I have seen what I thought were hawks, and wondered what happened to all my small birds. Thanks for info. How do I get rid of the big birds so my little ones come back?

  21. M Feldhues

    There’s a lot of truth to this story. Cooper’s hawks have adapted well into urban areas. And yes they take there share of song birds as nature is a game of survival. However feral cats in many cases are the real culprit. Wild birds are no stranger to these assailants and will seek other places to nest and forage. Where I live in Miami Co Ohio there maybe hundreds even thousands of these cats having there way by night and day with our feathered friends.

  22. Thomas

    When in flight , for any distance, 99 times out of 100,will flap there wings 5 times then coast……

  23. Lee

    Thank you for the information. I have a pair in my neighborhood that has decimated the bird population. I watched one with its kill in my backyard and now realize it was suffocating it. At least they eat everything and don’t leave any icky parts behind. (Unless startled) I live in central California so I guess they are nationwide.

  24. Pobiak

    There was a less subtle Coopers Hawk in my yard – it was perched on top of our bird feeder. I was perversely pleased to get that photo. Another time a hawk was underneath our bushes and chasing the birds that were hiding there.

  25. Pobiak

    There was a less subtle Coopers Hawk in my yard – it was perched on top of our bird feeder. I was perversely pleased to get that photo. Another time a hawk was underneath our bushes and chasing the birds that were hiding there.

  26. Wonderful article! I read every word and wished for more. I will look for your book and am sure it will be absorbed just as the above.

    Many different feeders, feed and both calm and running water, attract many birds to our yard. Of course, also “other” animals enjoy the smorgasbord. That includes a red tailed hawk. It’s very interesting watching him/her that comes by every three days or so. Of course, maybe more often that I know. It seems to be”successful” about 25% of its swoops. I’m not against the hawk as they have to survive, plus they keep the rodent population down.

    Thank you for your wonderful, informative article. I will look for more articles by you. Also, I can’t wait to get your book!

  27. Janet L Lowe

    Wow! Gruesome yeah it’s so fascinating for me. I love raptors. I love red tail hawks. Don’t know a lot about Cooper’s Hawks though. They sound almost like a animated peregrine falcon in a way. We have parents that nest near us and I had some morning doves nesting outside my window. Not sure what happened to them but I don’t want to think about it. I want to think they survived and went on with their lives. I’m a happy ending kind of girl!

  28. John Mercer

    I share these observation about Coopers. Their presence quickly empties my garden of other birds and squirrels. As of late two come to garden and perch on low tree limbs. The birds and I are happy and relieved when the Cooper’s leave. I have an owl hear but seldom hear that comes around d as r on occasion. It’s the squirrels not the birds that are more likely to take notice.

  29. Alice

    I have 2 little white dogs (about 14 pounds each). We have hawks flying around here on occasion. I haven’t seen any this year so far. When my dogs are outside I constantly watch them for dear of a hawk swooping down and taking one of my dogs. Last year I bought a kiterona shaped like a hawk. It was attached to a pole with a long strong. That seemed to ward off the real hawks.. My neighbor thought I was nuts. 🤪🤣

  30. Elaine

    Thanks for your article about your encounters with Coopers Hawks. I have had feeding stations set up for year round birds and migrating birds. We have always lived in rural areas and had Red Tailed Hawks nest but they never staked out my feeders or birdhouses. We moved in 2017 to a very rural bottom land area with part cropland and lots of forests with year round water sources. We had never had any hawk problems until migration this past spring. Like you, I noticed that the birds were very spooky, which was unusual. So I scouted around and found a Cooper hawk staking out my feeding stations at the very top of a tree in he front yard. I believe that hawks have to survive and would never hurt one even if it was not illegal to do so. After reading on the web, it advised me to move my feeders so the birds had more cover and the feeders could not be seen from the hawk’s watch spot. Thankfully this helped a lot. The Coopers nested deep in the woods from their calls but they are no longer staked out in the front yard watching my feeders. Maybe this will help others with Cooper hawk problems. Thanks for sharing your experience

  31. Romulo Romero

    Wow what a nice article. I love hawks, but would be warry about having them eying my feeders as a buffet.

    ‘They lay the prey bird on its back and then stand on its chest, suffocating it to death. I just think how horrible it must be to slowly die facing a Cooper’s Hawk looking down at you’

    Rhat’s brutal! Nature is so metal.

  32. Kathy

    What a perfect description of the COHA’s demeanor and actions. I must use this when describing to the neighborhood. Thank you

  33. Take wood dowels and get camouflage netting and tie off the corners with cable ties hawks have to dive they can’t swoop back up. I do that in the winter. I put 2 feeder and 1 suet feeder I’ll get another this year. Your going have to rearrange your feeding system so they can at least get some yummies.snd be protected.

  34. Bob

    Enjoyed your article. We have Cooper’s Hawks in my immediate area as well. I also have a video of a blue jay that likes to mimic the Cooper’s call when it comes to my porch for peanuts. My guess is it’s trying to intimidate or scare off other birds? Lol Happy to forward you the video if you would ever like to see it. Bob

  35. Coopers are a favorite. Morning Doves are the easiest and abundant prey for them at my feeders. And house sparrows within cherry laurels are also a favorite. They are an amazing species IMHO.
    Great read.Thabks for posting

  36. Robin

    Oh dear Lord now we will have people wanting to get rid of Cooper Hawks. This is nature but you will have one crazy person after reading this that will want them gone. Cooper Hawks are beautiful and they hunt for prey. I’ve seen them go after rabbits in my yard. They really are majestic birds.

  37. Gregory

    Fascinating! I live in high rise apartment in New York City
    and witnessed a hawk dining on a pigeon while perched on the
    air conditioner.

  38. Ksat

    What if you don’t want Mr Chicken Hawk residing in your trees, hunting the fragile birds that you are trying to feed? Is there a good way to discourage them from coming around?

  39. Robin V

    Hi…found your article very interesting as we have been entertained by a family of 3 Coopers hawks this summer. I find them fascinating.
    Spring Lake NJ

  40. TMB

    I personally think the hawks have gotten out of control on NE Ohio. Ive lived here almost 40 years now and when I first moved here at 18 you rarely saw a hawk. You now see them everywhere. The wildlife has changed drastically especially over the last 5-!0 years. I think reintroducing them
    unchecked might have been a big mistake.

  41. Ashby Marshall

    I have been a falconer for 60 years. The most difficult birds I’ve ever trained have been Cooper’s hawks. Just be glad you don’t have Goshawks the Cooper’s hawk cousin. Modern Falconry birds that are popular include Red tails, Falcons like Peregrines, Prairies, Gyr falcons and captive bred hybrids. Accipiters like Coopers , Goshawks and Sharpshin are truly magnificent raptors. Sorry about the absence of birds at your bird feeder but you have a chance to observe a predator prey relationship that only a few few are able to observe. Accipiter are stealthy hunters and are more secretive as compared to a more common Redtailed Hawk.

  42. June Inlow

    You write very well. I learned a lot from your article. I felt that you were talking directly to me. I enjoyed the way you tell a story.

  43. Mary Graff

    I have noticed one “stalking” our neighborhood and I other areas on my way to work. Also, for the last 5 years we have had Barred Owls coming back to our yard to have their babies. I love seeing and hearing them but makes me nervous for the squirrel that visits my yard every day. We live very close to a large state nature area.here in MD.

  44. Izzy

    Same here. There are 2 Coppers and a Sharp Shinned hunting in my yard. They have been picking off the doves and most likely nesting in the forest across the street. I do have 5 crows who visit my yard frequently. They tend to keep the peace by interrupting a hawk’s attack and forcing the hawks to go elsewhere.

  45. Rodney

    We had them when I was a kid, they would upset our chickens we raised 16000 or more and did have them get in the building and cause them to stack up and killing themselves, so I use to hunt them and shoot them all the time.

  46. Nan Behringer

    I have a number of feeders in my back yard and squirrels feast on my sunflowers, regularly. I often have Coopers Hawks perch in tree tops on the other side of the open space behind me. I know to look for them because the feeders are suddenly deserted and the yard totally silent.
    My platform feeder hangs close to the branches and trunk of a large tree and I had an adult Cooper’s perched, watching, unable to attack b/c he couldn’t get airborn in the available space between them. The squirrel was having a wonderful time teasing and driving him nuts.

  47. Marie

    I enjoyed your article but I must say for the masses that coopers hawks and sharp shinned hawks are serving their purpose. Culling the flock as one might say. They go after the weak. The ones that won’t make the winter or are blind with disease. If you want to write an article write about unclean habits of people who say they love birds and love feeding them. But all the while never clean their feeders. Contributing to blinding conjunctivitis that we see our purple finches suffer from. And squirrels and bunnies are rodents therefore they breed and have several litters of babies to help the balance of nature survive. Everything is a part of the balance of nature. Please do your research before you feel sad for the little creature that feeds them all. If we don’t have one we loose so much. And if we loose the predators we are over run by mice rats squirrels rabbits. Mice, Rats and Squirrels can carry black plague in some regions. Do your research if you don’t believe me. I not just speaking from opinion.

  48. Carole

    I never knew this I learned so much now over the hawk and how it catches its prey I will definitely be on the lookout now because I’ve heard that sound several times and I’ve seen Hawks flying and especially eagles that come down over the mountains but this one is new for me thanks for sharing

  49. I was enjoying watching & hearing a sweet little Bewick’s when the other day when a red-tailed hawk swooped down & snatched it. Sad. Then everyone has to eat. It’s just that when a hawk eats, someone has to die.

  50. Marie

    Coopers hawks cull the flock of birds. And hummingbirds are known to nest in the same tree as raptors for security. Do your research before you question the balance of life.

    No duplicate messages here

  51. Marie

    Coopers hawks cull the flock of birds. And hummingbirds are known to nest in the same tree as raptors for security. Do your research before you question the balance of life.

    No duplicate messages here

  52. Marie

    Coopers hawks cull the flock of birds. And hummingbirds are known to nest in the same tree as raptors for security. Do your research before you question the balance of life. Period

  53. Georgia

    Very interesting. I have not seen a cooler hawk since I was a child. When mommy raise chickens, ducks, and geese. Will they attack people since they are so aggressive. I was surprised to know they eat squirrels, and rabbits. I learned something today

  54. Dee

    Really enjoyed your article on the Cooper’s Hawk. Your birding history was also interesting.
    I loved my feeders & birding when I lived on the Eastern end of Long Island. I kept a journal and found the past time very rewarding.
    Thank you for your story.

  55. Gay Painter

    I live in Habersham Co. Ga. There are 3 coopers hawk in my neighborhood and they have been divine and trying to get my small dog. I can’t even walk him in the daytime

  56. Zura

    Ashville, OH
    I live in a wooded area. I have 2, at least.,
    “Chicken Hawks”. They can be very noisy at times calling to one another. Thanks for tip on looking down and not skyward in their flight pattern.👍

  57. George Norkus

    Clay,

    I’ve seen a some Cooper’s flying about a hundred feet above a farmers field. It seems they are always being attacked by Red Wing Blackbirds. A few times I have actually seen Coopers with the Red Wing Blackbirds riding on the backs of the hawks, only to rest, then take flight and continue to attack the same hawk they were riding on.

    A couple other times I watched a Red Tailed Hawks do their circular flight pattern lower and lower then finally out of sight as in dove to the ground. I’m guessing for food.

    Generally I fine the Red Wing Blackbirds do not attack the Red Tailed Hawks. My guess here is that they know the Red Tailed Hawks do not eat smaller birds, only field mice and othe land mamals. So they don’t really pose a threat. Were as the Cooper’s mainly do look for other birds.

  58. Chris

    I had a family of cooper hawks living in my backyard. I thought it was great because I had always had gophers in my yard except for when the coopers moved in. Sure I didn’t have the 9000 house sparrows visiting my feeders every day. But I had majestic hawks keeping rodents away from my property. Had a new human family move in behind me and within a week found a dead cooper in my backyard. Never saw the hawks again after that. Now 2 years later I have tons of problems with gophers again.

  59. Patti Grounds

    Thank you. We have Hawkins and Kites
    Kites eat birds too don’t they?

    I appreciate your article. We have 2 feeder and 2 bitdbaths. We try to keep Hawkins and Kizes away.
    Could a carnivorous large bird Grab up our Miniaturen male pomeranian?

  60. Beth W.

    Please don’t feed birds! As a wildlife biologist who has mostly worked with birds, I stopped feeding birds back in the 1990s when I learned that not only are bird feeders predator magnets, like you’re setting up a feeding station for the hawks you’re complaining about, but they can also spread terrible diseases.

    More recently, there have been studies showing that birds fed over the winter may start breeding too early in the spring before the giant flush of caterpillars which feed nestlings each spring emerges. The understanding in my field, thanks to the work of evolutionary ecologists, is that the reason neotropical migrants evolved to migrate to the temperate zone to breed is this huge source of food for their offspring. Caterpillars are the perfect food for fast growing young birds because they’re packed with protein and fat, just what young birds need to grow up as quickly as they do. They don’t eat seed, nor can nestlings eat adult insects with an exoskeleton because they can’t digest things like that yet. It would be like feeding a human infant nuts or crackers or a granola bar!

    There have been experimental studies in several species showing that birds fed over the winter have lower reproductive success and year-to-year survival compared with birds who were not fed over the winter. That’s associated with the lack of sufficent food for nestlings if birds lay their eggs too early, as I described above.

    Birds can find their own food! They do NOT need us to feed them. What you can do if you truly care about the birds is to fill your yard with native plants. There has been quite a bit of research in recent years on this in recent years including, for example, a study showing that yards with at least 40% native plants had much greater abundance and diversity of the insects and invertebrates that provide food for birds, which led to greater abundance and diversity of bird species in these yards, as well as greater survival and reproductive success of the birds there. That particular study involved chickadees, but there have been others.

    There are plenty of beautiful native plants, most readily found at a nursery specializing in native plants. You can easily look for one by Googling. And the hybridized horticultural varieties sold at big box hardware stores don’t count, nor do plants like the Mexican milkweed they have been pushing every state as far as I know!

    Every state as far as I know has a native plant society, and there may be a local chapter near you. Again, you can find them with a Google search, typing in the name of your state and “native plant society.” They often hold plant sales offering plants their members have dug out of from their own yards at much lower prices than you’d pay at a nursery. The Florida Native Plant Society chapter in my area of the Florida Panhandle gives away two-year-old native trees and shrubs each year as part of an Earth Day festival. Other potentially helpful resources in choosing appropriate native plants for your yard include your county’s agricultural extension agency, relevant university programs, nature centers, botanical gardens, and various websites including wildflower.org, the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas, which provides information about native plants across our nation.

    And I must say that I really don’t appreciate raptors being denigrated as they were by the author of this article because they hunt birds and small mammals. They have the right to live and they need to eat, too. Hawks and owls and eagles and kites and osprey and falcons are gorgeous animals with sophisticated flight skills and hunting skills. Why can’t you appreciate them instead of tearing them down? What do you think a monarch butterfly thinks what an Eastern Phoebe sails off a perch to grab it in mid-air, rip off its wings, and gobble down the rest of its body? What do you think a Green Anole thinks when a Loggerhead Shrike grabs it and impales it on a thorn for later consumption? (I’ve observed both these behaviors personally and repeatedly.)

    I encourage anyone feeding birds to consider whether they are actually doing so to benefit the birds or for their own personal enjoyment. I’d also like to note that bird feeding has become big corporate business on the premise that it’s helping birds, when it really isn’t. Do you really want to support that, especially at a time when we’re seeing an historic decline in bird abundance — and may well see the disappearance of many avian species during our lifetimes? Creating better habitat in your yard with native plants is the answer. Even if you live in an apartment and maybe have a balcony, or maybe some sort of outdoor space where the management would let you do some planting, or perhaps a community garden or a nature center or another spot where your municipal government would allow you to do some planting, YOU can do something to help re-stock our world with native plants. I think you’ll fall in love with them, too! 💚 🌿

  61. Susan Berger

    This was excellent! I haven’t seen a Cooper in a long time mostly retails, but this was an amazing g write! Thank you. It was as though I was there!

  62. Susanne Reary

    Clay, Thank you so much for your excellent & very interesting post on the Coopers Hawk. I live in Arizona and have been watching birds here for a while. I learned very much from your post and it will give me greater understanding of the hawks in my area which are the red tail hawk and I think we have Coopers Hawks as well. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  63. Chris

    We have Coopers and Sharp shinned in our neighborhood. Side by side A Coopers is bigger than a SS and one has a rounded tail feather as opposed to flat. Is there any other way to tell the difference?

  64. Kathy

    Great article Clay…you are spot on about Cooper’s Hawk aka Chicken Hawk…watched many incidents unfold @ my own feeders, on yard critters and it happens so fast & w/very swift, targeted flying. Out in Northern NY near the Adirondacks, Cooper’s seem to be larger n scarier to all that happen to come into their focus. Thanks for a nice article!

  65. Steven

    Great article. I used the Merlin app on my phone and was finally able to detect a cooper earlier this week in my back yard in a Tacoma suburb.

  66. Clay claims to be a birder and writes this? How about the Coopers Hawk he and and his neighbors have had the privilege to watch up close. It’s all part of the big picture. Nature in action.

    I guess only the cute, little, fuzzy, colorful ones count.

  67. Catherine

    There is a Coopers Hawk nest near my house. I live in Montague, NJ.
    I have a window feeder that attracts many birds.
    I hear the hawks every morning and all day long.
    I have a small cat that I worry about, but she stays very close and she’s not allowed outside at night.

  68. Ron Ray

    Thank you, Clay! That was a wonderful article.

    I’m planning to go birdwatching and particularly the hummingbirds in Costa Rica in mid March.

  69. Sam L

    I used to have multiple American Kestrel nests and would watch them attack robin nests, and Starling nests all the time. We’d have four baby robins in a nest that we’d watched ever since they were blue eggs, but every single day there’d be one less and the mother robin was always squawking throughout the day. We knew they were being snatched by the small falcons. There were at least 7-10 kestrels in our yard because they would nest so close.

  70. TaterTot

    At my old house in The Grove, TX I had a pair of Coopers Hawks living in my Backyard. Their nest was prolly 200 ft from my house. Every time I started a fire outside one of them would always sit in the close’s tree and stare at it.

  71. Jackie

    Hello, so I have hawks around my neighborhood, they are killing my squirrels and other birds, how do i get rid of them? I have tried owls sounds, cracking noises and crow sound. Plus i cant handle the noise they make.

  72. Wade

    Thanks. This is very informative. My father had a sharp-shinned hawk raiding his feeder and finally decided to shoot it. Don’t know if I would go that far, but I do love watching all my bird friends and would hate to have to give that up. And hawks are my totem… What a dilemma that would be!

  73. Tom Prescott

    I envy you! I love photographing hawks but all I usually see are Red Shouldered hawks. I rarely see a Cooper’s Hawk. I’d love to be photographing their behavior.

  74. John Wilkinson

    Clay you are into your birds like I am into my boxing.
    I think it is bit DIFFERENT though. What I study exists “explosive politics.” NOT THAT EVERY soul knows what I know. Certainly not all fans would!!

  75. Marianne Guzzardo

    Thank you for this..it’s something I think I would’ve written because of how I feel about these hawks and what I seen lately in my backyard. I refuse to put anything out now – we’ll for a while because they know that my backyard is a plethora of mourning doves with seeds attracting the birds they love to eat.
    I’m a bird lover. But not of accipiters! Maybe that counts me out as being a bird lover and watcher. After my son died I had hummingbirds eating of my hand and that’s not to come in here in eastern Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia. At least I don’t think it is. So now birds are well keep me going they make me happy and bring me joy because not much else does, so you can understand when I see my sweet birds and I have many different that it kills me when the Cooper’s Hawk comes and it’s been happening more and more! I write this on August 5 at 10 PM I only live one little tube feeder out from my finches hiding in the maple tree right next to my chair where I’d like to sit and they’re small and fly away quickly as we know, but when I had the finch feeder or two out next to my window just recently and every year the morning doves would enjoy the food because it had Nyjer seeds in it and they love that along with chopped up sunflower seeds, they all love that! So that’s where I find the death feather bunch. Six times so far this spring and summer and just now on my lawn and one on my neighbors lawn who does not feed the birds. It’s always the morning doves because I know their feathers of different birds and all the species as I had said. Thank you for this touching story especially the people that were rooting for the squirrels lol I wanted to mention that when the crows see the Cooper’s Hawk they Chase the hell out of them I mean they chased the hawk in a group and I love it lol also the Blue Jays make that call is a certain call that alerts the whole backyard and every bird to be alerted that there is a hawk nearby it’s amazing how some of the birds protect others they’re also protecting their own nest of course but the crows really do the trick so having a crows nest nearby actually is a positive thing! I never thought that until being outside so much and seeing nature after my son had passed and having the time to do so. Blessings to you

  76. SAA

    Thanks for the info. I’ll remember that call: Kek-kek-,Kek-kek-…and see if any reside here. Birds of prey..awe-inspiring and a privilege to watch.

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