Living in a mixed woodland, I have had the unending pleasure of watching generations of Cooper’s Hawks grow up for several years. Here is a brief look at this fascinating raptor.
It all started with this individual (below), in March of 2017. That month it was cold and rainy with hail and a scant accumulation of snow. Athena and I were very excited about seeing this adult daily, a new addition to our backyard bird population.
I wrote a post about the adult we saw that cold day in mid-March, and the family that developed thereafter.
Here’s the 2017 post: New Cooper’s Hawks
Since then many things have happened, including wildfires that incinerated the madrone tree where they had nested.
It is four years later, the forest is slowly recovering, and the most wonderful miracle happened.
Two new Cooper’s hawks have joined our spirited woodland.
Imagine the thrill for us when, last month, we saw two more juveniles once again circling our property, learning stealth and calling out in that familiar airy cry.
They are the next generation of that same adult pictured in Photo #3 above, who began the nest in 2017. That means not only did they not perish in the fires, but they returned to breed again.
This summer, since our plans for family, friends and trips have been curtailed by new pandemic surges, we spend a lot of time at home. This has given us the privilege of watching the next generation mature.
Just like the earlier brood years ago, the new juveniles are adapting to life in our California forest.
Will they eventually come to the water tray for refreshment like this one did?
They have already learned how to fly, an amazing accomplishment in itself. Unlike many raptors, Accipiter cooperii are proficient at flying through forests. Their relatively short wings and long tail make them skillful hunters amid tree trunks, limbs and leaves. They are a marvel to watch.
This new generation is cooperatively hunting, too. Ordinarily Cooper’s hawks are solitary birds, but when they are young sometimes they hunt together. Both generations we have watched start their prowess this way. One drives the prey towards the other.
So far hunting hasn’t been too successful from what we have seen, and it’s just as well that we don’t see everything.
Both juveniles are hunting together in this photo, taken a few days ago.
While they have learned flight and hunting techniques, our new sibling pair are still learning stealth.
One day they dramatically swooped together into a pine tree with great flying flair, but making such a racket that all the birds vanished instantly. Both hawks were screaming. Actually screaming.
After a few more days went by, we watched one hawk practicing patience. When it flew into the tree the small birds scattered, as usual. But this time the hawk stayed perched for about 15 minutes, waited for the birds to return. They did return, one by one, and the hawk stayed perched and still, just watching.
Every dawn I hear the whistling cry of the Cooper’s hawks. I did today and hopefully I will tomorrow. Interestingly, the screaming voice is lessening in volume as the birds mature. The hawks and I start our new day together, pursuing life in our own ways.
We take it one day at a time, figuring out what to do next and next and next.
Written by Jet Eliot.
Photos by Athena Alexander.