The Cooper’s Hawk
The Cooper’s Hawk is a fairly frequent visitor to Mount Auburn and can be present at almost every month of the year though many of the reports are during the fall and winter months. The Cooper’s Hawk is a member of the Accipiter family, a group of hawks that have short rounded wings, long tails, and long legs. There are over 50 species of Accipiter throughout the world but just three occur in North America- Northern Goshawk, the largest and rarest, the Cooper’s, the mid-size bird and the Sharp-shinned, the smallest.
There is a very marked difference in size – with the females larger than the males so much so that a female Sharp-shinned could be bigger than a male Cooper’s! The word Accipiter is derived from a Latin verb meaning “to seize” which is what this group of hawks do – seize birds. Accipiters have a characteristic flight, which is a series of wing beats then a glide “flap, flap, glide”; they are also very fast fliers especially when in pursuit of prey.
Cooper’s Hawks were a rare breeder during the first Massachusetts Audubon Breeding Bird Atlas with just 1% found in the blocks surveyed during 1974-1978. In the current Atlas project just in the second year Cooper’s have been found in 44% of blocks surveyed- a dramatic increase. The best place to see a Cooper’s Hawk at Mount Auburn is near the bird feeder at Auburn Lake. Often a bird will be perched across from the feeder and when the time is right dash from its perch and pounce on one of birds caught off guard.