One of our most common urban hawks, Cooper’s hawks are often seen flying into yards, attempting to catch unsuspecting songbirds at feeders. Male Cooper’s hawks typically build nests, then hunt food for the female and young. Females will often aggressively defend their nest, and may not hesitate to “dive bomb” people who get too close. Their nests are commonly seen in large trees in urban areas, and they may utilize the same nesting area each year.
In the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, Cooper’s hawks are year-round residents. Look for them in cottonwood trees along the Virgin River, or in flight with their “flap, flap, glide” pattern typical of Accipiters (the same genus as the similar sharp-shinned hawk, and the larger northern goshawk).
The Cooper’s hawk can be distinguished from the sharp-shinned hawk by it’s blockier head shape, with adults sporting a bluish-gray cap and pale nape. This differs from the sharp-shinned hawk’s hooded appearance with a rounded head and dark nape. Cooper’s hawks also have thicker legs than sharp-shinned hawks, and a more rounded tail.