Cooper’s Hawks, The Next Generation

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.

74 thoughts on “Cooper’s Hawks, The Next Generation

  1. Beautiful photos. We have a lot of Cooper’s Hawks. It’s interesting to listen to them because they have a great range of vocalizations. The often sound like a cat meowing. At night they have a weird eerie cry that you would think is a strange beast. One time I heard what sounded like a monkey chattering in the bosque. When I finally located the source of the chattering, it was a very agitated Cooper’s Hawk. Looking a little closer, I saw a Great Horned Owl perched on a branch about 15 feet from the Cooper’s Hawk.

    • Your descriptions of the sounds are great, Timothy, and I know each of those calls you’re describing. “The monkey chattering in the bosque” is a surprise vocalization if you don’t know. Great story, too, about the chattering, agitated CH frightened by the GHO. I was surprised to learn that GHOs prey on CHs. Thanks for your contribution, I loved hearing about the CHs in the Rio Grande environs.

      • The CH’s will taunt the GHOs. CH’s that got too close to the owlets have been taken out by Daddy and and the owlets had CH for dinner. One time I saw a CH pesting the CHOs. It would jump from branch to branch chattering at the CHOs, then it would dive bomb the owlets bumping into them like it was trying to knock them out of the tree. The owlets were pretty large at that point, so it didn’t try to grab them. I think it knew it would not survive a serious attack on the owlets.

      • I sure enjoyed these stories of the cheeky CHs. I know how close and knowledgeable you have become with the GHOs in your neighborhood, and I am not at all surprised that Daddy had to stop the nonsense. Really appreciate you taking the time to share this exciting wildlife activity.

  2. I love it. These guys hunt the stream outside my office window. They sneak from perch to perch and watch for prey. They also crash through the willows in pursuit of birds like avian Evil Knievels.

  3. What a wonderful treat with such nice photo captures! A Cooper’s Hawk used to come to our backyard and scare away the small birds at our bird feeder. We have not seen him in a few years though. So I really like this post and want to thank you and Athena for it.

    • Thanks very much, Hien, for your kind words. I liked hearing about the CH you once had there, and its feeder antics. They are supreme hunters and fliers and such a joy to watch, I’m glad I could bring some of their magic to you today.

  4. Thank you very much, dear Jet. Great shots. We have hawks coming to our back garden to snatch little birds there. But these are not a Cooper’s Hawk. We suppose we don’t have those hawks here in East Anglia.
    Wishing you a wonderful weekend
    The Fab Four of Cley
    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    • Yes, the tension is rising again after “all that’s going on” with the resurgence. Good to have the steady sureness of raptors to guide us. Thanks very much, Jan, I always appreciate your visits and astute comments.

  5. We see them here from time to time, but our songbirds don’t like them at all. Beautiful photos. All those fires are so devastating for the wildlife. As you said, it might be a good thing you don’t see everything that goes on. It would be heartbreaking sometimes.

    • Yes, the brutality of nature is a reality too, but it’s not always easy to take. I’m glad you enjoyed the Cooper’s hawks post, Anneli, thank you for your visit.

  6. The Cooper’s Hawks are very familiar with my backyard… you know why! There are a couple of their nests at about a block distance, very hight at almost the top of some pine trees. I see them many times. Whether flying around high or sitting on my deck in my backyard. They are beautiful birds no doubt. Being numerous in Georgia they are close to the urban area.
    Your post was nicely done, thank you, my friend. πŸ™‚

    • The Cooper’s hawks’ range has widened and they are frequent in some urban and suburban spots now. I am not at all surprised, H.J., that you know exactly where the CH nests are in your neighborhood. I really appreciated your GA contribution, and always enjoy your visits, my friend. Thank you.

  7. I love these guys, too. I don’t see many hawks here but we used to see quite a few in Illinois and I always look for hawks while driving (although not if it distracts me from the road.) Winter is a great time to spot hawks along the way.

    • I enjoyed hearing about your attraction to hawks, Janet. They are a majestic bird and we are lucky to share the planet with them. So I’m with you, and always keeping my eyes out for the next hawk. Thanks so very much.

  8. Lovely to learn that the hawks have returned! Also good to know that you’re safe and well on the mountain and in the woods until things in the wider world calm down.
    Great words and images, as always – thanks, Jet!

    • A great joy to have you stop by, pc, as always. Yes, isn’t it great that the hawks came back? We were so thrilled. Sending lots of smiles to you and Mrs. pc for a happy and safe weekend.

  9. It must be thrilling to watch these juveniles develop day by day. Fingers crossed they continue to do well. Too bad about the madrone, I love their exfoliating bark. Have a great weekend!

    • Yes, madrones are really special trees with their exfoliating bark. A tree that photosynthesizes via the bark is a unique one. We did lose lots of madrones, and they are slow growing so we won’t get them back for decades. But there are a few that survived and we treasure them. Thanks for sharing in the pleasure of watching the juveniles CHs grow, Eliza.

  10. I’m not certain whether I’ve seen one of these or not. We do have Sharp-shinned Hawks, and it looks to me as though they could be easily confused with the Cooper’s. On the other hand, when I went to the Cornell site to listen to their sounds, the call was very familiar. When I hear it again, I need to look around more closely. Thanks, as always, for Athena’s great photos and your interesting text. I always look forward to your posts!

    • You’re right, Linda, the Cooper’s hawks and Sharp-shinned are very similar. There are subtle differences. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and that it inspired you to keep on looking. Always a pleasure to have you stop by, thank you.

  11. So cool to know that this is the new generation and to see them learning how to hunt. Actually pretty observant to see them helping each other until they become efficient and patient.

    • It has been really fun to watch the new generation learning and making mistakes, Bill. Their vocal presence has helped with our observations, and even when we’re indoors we go running to the door or window to see what they’re up to now. Thanks so very much for your visit today.

    • Yes, it’s convenient when the hawks live in your backyard domain, to be able to keep an eye on them all times of the day and for season after season. Thank you Diana.

  12. I loved the ending, dear Jet… and imagining you and the Cooper’s Hawks tackling the new dawn together. Hopefully you’re not screaming… ;>)

  13. I loved learning about the doings of your Cooper’s Hawk family! Their markings are so pretty. I like how you illustrate that birds have to adapt to changes in their environments just as we do. I’m so happy they didn’t die in the fires but have found a way to carry on. They love their home, too. It must be inspiring to have a front row seat to observe the juveniles learning the ropes. We are all learning to make the best of things.

    • As always, your comment was a breath of fresh air, Barbara. Yes, we are all definitely learning how to make the best of things during this time. And yes, it is absolutely inspiring to have a “front row seat” with these juvenile Cooper’s hawks. And what a joy to share some of it with you. Thank you, Barbara.

    • Thanks so very much, Frank, for your observant and kind comment. It has been a joy watching these Cooper’s hawks grow up. And you’re right, they are a challenging pair of birds to photograph, for they are hidden much of the time. I’m glad you could see, as you always do, Athena’s skills in overcoming the challenges. Cheers to overcoming challenges, and cheers to you. Many thanks.

  14. How marvelous and miraculous to get to see these lovely birds grow and develop (and survive the fires!!!) Eric caught a very quick glimpse of a Cooper’s not long ago. He managed a few quick shots – even to verify, but not much detail. I’ve seen videos of their flight (Attenborough’s?) and they are so agile through thickets of branches it almost takes your breath away to watch them. This spot where we landed just keeps giving and giving us more and more delights. The quail babies are flourishing… more chicks than we can count and I have far too many pictures than I can process. The hardest part is weeding through hundreds if not thousands of photos… I wonder? Does Athena ever have that problem? πŸ€”

    • I so enjoyed your visit, Gunta, and am smiling at the quandary of weeding through and editing thousands of photos. And I am thrilled that you have more quail chicks than you can count. How utterly delightful. With a pair of Cooper’s hawks in our yard, the quail chicks are hidden this year (or so I like to think). And you’re right, their agile flying through our woods really does take the breath away. My warmest thanks for your visit and thoughts. Cheers to you and Eric.

    • Yes, I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to see this new generation of Cooper’s Hawks. A fun thing occurred this week, we saw one of the new generation hawks drinking from our water tray several times, just like the other generation did years ago. Thanks so much for your interest, Belinda.

  15. Yes, best you don’t see everything.
    Lol! It’s hard for me when the cat catches a mouse.
    I LOVE my cat, I love all animals. I know you do too!

  16. That is amazing you have Cooper’s Hawks right outside in your backyard. It sounds like they have weathered much in the past few years, and they are resilient rebuilding and making your area their home. Their screaming must have been loud when they started it. Maybe some of them wanted attention, and interesting to hear after a short time the birds returned. Hope all of them are getting along πŸ™‚

    • Hi Mabel, great to “see” you. Yes, we are lucky to have the opportunity to watch the Cooper’s hawks siblings grow up. They are now screaming less, and come to the water tray every day. It’s been great fun to observe, and I’m glad I could share them with you. Thanks so much for your visits.

    • It is a frightening time in these dry mountains, and we stand ready to flee at any moment. But meanwhile, fun to share the woods with these magnificent raptors. Thank you.

  17. How lucky you are to witness this family as they grow, Jet. I see hawks often and now I know some are probably Cooper’s… I often just say “Red Tailed” since they are common. Shows what I know! 😁 The vocalizations must be fun to hear. Interesting post.

    • It has been fascinating to watch the maturing of our Cooper’s Hawks, Jane. Since I wrote that post, they have become more stealthy and, also interestingly, they have taken up the daily stop of coming to our water tray. I have never in my life seen a raptor at a dish of water, except for our Cooper’s here. It’s so hot and dry, everyone comes to the water day and night. A delight to have you stop by today, thank you.

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