Cooper’s Hawks are magnificent and ominous as they perch in a hidden location and watch for prey. Occasionally, we see this raptor’s thick legs with large yellow talons clasped to a branch or fence. The Cooper’s Hawk belongs to the genus Accipiter and is about the same size as a crow.
In 1828, this hawk species was named after William Cooper, a New York scientist. The scientific name for hawks is Falconidae. All hawks are classified as birds of prey and commonly called raptors. The term raptor means to take by force or to seize.
First year juvenile Cooper’s Hawks have yellow eyes and uniformly brown backs and brown vertical stripes on their breasts as pictured above. These determined raptors are medium sized birds of prey that hunt by sudden dashes from a concealed perch.
Note the tail of the Cooper’s Hawk; a rounded, long tail crossed by several dark lines with a distinct white band on the tip.
The above photo shows a juvenile Cooper’s mantling. What is mantling? Mantling is when birds of prey hunch their shoulders and spread their wings over a kill to keep it hidden from other predators.
Check out those claws, talons! There are four, sharp talons on each of the hawk’s feet. How strong are Cooper’s Hawks talons? The PSI (pounds per square inch) is 150-200 pounds. An average healthy man has a PSI of 110. According to the University of Michigan, the larger the bird the stronger the talons. Raptor’s talons puncture their prey hard; usually stabbing a vital organ causing the animal’s rapid death.
The talons are opened by leg muscles and will automatically close when the hawk impacts an object; example…. animal or perch. It is a reflex!
This hawk eats mostly birds, but will also capture mammals including squirrels and rabbits. The beak of a raptor bird is sharp and resembles the action of scissors.
The older adult Cooper’s Hawks have tan barring on the breast, dark red-orange eyes and a dark cap on the head, like a flat top.
These raptors have excellent vision that contain 5 times the sensory cells per millimeter of the retina than us humans. How do these birds see? Hawks refract certain wavelengths of light with the colored oils in their eyes.
Certain colors are intensified for the hawk at the expense of others. The light filtration of the hawk’s eyes make the browns and grays of typical prey items stand out against the filtered greens.
Cooper’s Hawks build their nest in trees that average 25-50 feet high. Southern Arizona contains several mountain ranges that host large areas of undisturbed forest which these raptors prefer.