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Cooper's Hawk

Accipiter cooperii

Accipiter cooperii photo © by Michael Plagens

The summer monsoon of 2009 was stingy on rainfall making food scarce for most birds. The Canyon Grape (Vitis arizonica) were about the only food available and were concentrated in this thicket and thus so were fruit-eating birds. And the concentration of birds made for easy pickings for this Cooper's Hawk at Coon Creek, Sierra Ancha, Gila Co., Arizona on Aug. 8.

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Cooper's Hawks have a preference for wooded areas and so in the Sonoran Desert they tend to remain near cottonwood or sycamore gallery woodlands that occur along riparian streams. Occasionally they hunt in the cities or near farms where there are trees and bird feeders. Cooper's hunt primarily for smaller birds up to the size of city pigeons. They build their nests in the crowns of large stream-side trees. Trespassing hikers are vocally scolded especially during nesting season.

Sharp-shinned Hawk is very similar and also occurs in the Sonoran Desert. Cooper's is usually larger, but female sharpies are often larger than male cooper's. Sharpies have a squared-off tail vs. cooper's rounded tail; this trait is often hard to see. If confusion remains it is often safer just to identify these birds as Accipiters.

Year-round Resident - Spring/Summer Breeder

More Information:

Sonoran Desert Field Guide
Sonoran Desert Places
Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2009