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Cooper's Hawk
March 23, 2009

A belated happy Spring to you.

What a splendid last week of winter and first couple days of Spring we've had in southwest Michigan.

Last week Started out quite warm as we managed to top out at 71 degrees.

Temperatures have declined, but it was dry.

No snow or rain.

Which is a good thing as some local rivers and streams were beyond flood stage.

A good thing, all the Great Lakes are above last years level at this time of year.

Lake Michigan is up 3 inches this past month, but is still 8 inches below the 30 year March level.

Still that is much better than the 3 feet below average of a couple years ago.

As you see, weather can be very cyclical.

When you think 3 inches of water over a large lake, that is some serious rain and snow melt.

On one of my walks with Akita (Keet) we ventured into a field.

Why not, it was around 60 degrees and sunny and soon enough the vegetation will be to tall for her.

Like any typical dog, she has her nose to the ground and I'm enjoying the sights and sounds of a mid March day.

All of a sudden, Keet is jumping around, getting her leash tangled in a small bush and still going crazy.

I look down to see what's happening, thinking there may be in insect infestation or something that would do this to her.

Lo and Behold...................

A Garter snake was slithering around and scared her something terrible.

I've heard and read that dogs have a natural fear of snakes (or at least a guarded respect) as do most animals.

As a child, I recall the family German Shepherds coming upon Hog- nosed snakes and going in circles and barking like crazy but never attacking the snake.

I also am aware of snake bites and dogs.

Are these dogs that attack or get to close to snakes.

Are they curious or protecting?

Any way, I am interested, if someone has an answer to dogs and natural fears of snakes.

I know Keet was afraid.

Sandhill cranes are still flying over.

The resident Great blue heron is back at the pond (assuming it is the same bird).

American goldfinches are changing colors big time.

A few Winter birds still remain in my yard and at my feeders (I'll have most of them all year long).

Male robins are busy jockeying for prime grounds and like clock work......

Two weeks after male robins appear, the females are here.

I've tinkered around outside a bit, but still leaving some things alone.

Keeping some leaf litter in your gardens and beds is a good thing.

Robins are poking around looking for food and some birds are taking away some stuff for nesting material.

The litter that remains, becomes the earth once more.


Spring favorites.

I understand it is a busy time of year, as you are getting ready to plant gardens, seedlings, clean up etc.

But, do you have any to share?

What is special or a favorite about spring for you?

Sounds, smells, sights, activities, bare back men, women in shorts?

Does Spring bring back memories?

Easter is a special time in spring too.

I have a whopping three e-mail favorites so far.

I know you guys can do better than that.

You always have come through.

So here is the drill once more

Your first name only

City your live in or near

State/Province you are in.

No last name of obvious reasons and you still get to be in print to share with others.

Simple huh?

Thank you in advance.

From time to time I give you some detail on a certain bird or wildlife creature.

Many of you experience hawk attacks at your feeding stations and to some degree you can minimize this.

But it is nature in its true, raw and natural best.

Today I am bringing you one of the more common backyard hawks.

You may see it at winter feeders, but is a year round predator for most of you.

This week:

Cooper's Hawk.


Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

Cooper's Hawk derives its name from William Cooper, the naturalist to first describe and collect specimens of the species.

The genus Accipiter specifically refers to a group of birds who all have relatively short wings and long tails.

The Cooper's Hawk is the most widespread of the three North American accipiters (Cooper's, Sharp-shinned and Northern Goshawk).

Accipiters are birds of prey that primarily catch birds for their groceries.

Our other hawks are more into small mammals, snakes, lizards and such (they will snag a bird when needed).

Females are up to one third larger than males, one of the largest sexual dimorphism size differences of any hawk.

Females can be as large as 15 to 20 inches in length (or 39-50 cm)

Wing span runs between 24 inches to 35 inches (39-50 cm) .

Weight averages between a bit more than a half a pound to around 21 ounces (250-597 g).

Males are much smaller and are often confused as a large female Sharp-shinned hawk.

Adults have solid gray upper parts, barred with reddish-brown.

Their long tails are barred gray and black, rounded at the ends, with a white band at the tips.

Their eyes are red.

Immature birds are brown above with brown streaking on their white underparts; they have yellow eyes.

Juvenile colors remain for the first year and they become mate worthy at 2 years of age.

Cooper's Hawks have short, rounded wings that are set slightly farther back on their bodies than those of the smaller, but similar-looking, Sharp-shinned Hawk.

It is best to look at the thick shoulders and head structure to discern the difference between a small Cooper's and a large Sharpie.

The average lifespan is roughly 7 years.


Cooper's Hawks are generally found in forested areas up to 3,000 feet, especially near edges and rivers.

Unlike the Sharp-shinned Hawk, which prefers conifers, the Cooper's Hawk prefers hardwood stands when they are available, but will use conifers too.

The species prefers mature forests, but can be found in urban and suburban areas where there are tall trees for nesting.

During the nesting season, Cooper's Hawks are often more common in open areas than Sharp-shinned Hawks.

In winter, Sharp-shinned Hawks are seen in more open areas(Like your backyard).

The body and wing structure of this bird of prey make them ideal hunters in suburbia and farmlands.

The same techniques used to hunt in forested lands works just as well as they maneuver around trees, houses, barns and other structures.

Look at the picture to your right and you can see how the long tail and short wings are perfect for these hunting tactics.

The shorter wings are designed for quick powerful strokes that provide speed.

The long tail is the ideal rudder as the bird twists and turns through trees and around man made structures in pursuit of its meal.

Each individual wing and tail feather is controlled as a single unit for optimal performance.


The hunting Cooper's Hawk approaches its prey stealthily, moving quietly through dense cover until it is close enough to overcome its target with a burst of speed.

Dashing through vegetation to catch birds is a rather dangerous lifestyle.

According to Cornell's Lab of Ornithology, a recent study found that 23 percent of all Cooper's Hawks examined had healed fractures in the bones of the chest, especially of the furcula or wishbone.

This tells you, they aren't afraid to fly into trees and objects while in pursuit of prey.

The secretive traits that allow the Cooper's Hawk to surprise its prey also make it difficult to observe.

It is most easily seen during migration.


Medium-sized birds like doves, robins and jays are high on their list.

Small mammals (squirrels and mice) make up a part of the Cooper's Hawk's diet.

You may be witness to a hawk strike at your feeders or watch a hawk fearlessly fly into a tree after its prey.

This may seem cruel to you, but it is Pure Nature.

One of the many ways of keeping the gene pool strong and bird population in check.

I know, I don't like feeling that I'm setting the dinner table for the hawks, but they would find birds no matter what and this way I get to see the hunt.

Besides, I'm still feeding the birds, am I not?

If the prey isn't killed on impact, the powerful feet and talons will grip they prey and choke or squeeze until the prey is dead.

This may seem cruel to you, but it is Pure Nature.

One of the many ways of keeping the gene pool strong and bird population in check.

I know I don't want to feel I'm setting the dinner table for the hawks, but they would find birds no matter what and this way I get to see the hunt.

If the prey isn't killed on impact, the powerful feet and talons will grip they prey and choke or squeeze until the prey is dead.


Courtship is lengthy for Cooper's Hawks, and the male may feed the female for up to a month before she begins to lay eggs.

They nest in a tree, 25-50 feet off the ground.

The nest is often built on top of an old crow or squirrel nest.

Both sexes help build the stick nest lined with pieces of bark.

The female lays and incubates 3 to 5 white to bluish colored eggs for 30 to 33 days.

The male brings food and incubates the eggs when the female leaves the nest to eat. Once the eggs hatch, the female broods for about two weeks.

During this time, the male continues to bring food for the female and the young.

He gives the food to the female, and she feeds it to the nestlings. The young start to climb about the nest at four weeks of age, and begin to make short flights soon after.

The parents continue to feed the young for up to seven weeks.

The hawks are reclusive and can be difficult to spot, especially during the breeding season.

Cooper’s hawks are monogamous and many pairs mate for life.

Migration Status:

Most Cooper's Hawks probably migrate south for the winter, but are replaced by other birds from farther north.

Several immature hawks will over winter when they discover your feeding stations make ideal hunting grounds.

To deter this, you can remove your feeders for a few days.

Once they bird of prey realizes the grocery isle is empty, it will move on to another location.

In time this will happen naturally when birds stop showing up to your feeder or favorite feeding grounds.

Fall migration is often along mountain ridges and coastlines.

Conservation Status:

Cooper's Hawk populations, especially in the East, declined significantly in the middle of the 20th Century, due to shooting, trapping, and pesticide contamination.

They are still listed as endangered or threatened in several eastern states, but most populations have recovered well.

Intentional killing is no longer an issue in most areas, although it does still occur.

Pesticide contamination has less of an impact since the banning of DDT.

Although populations in the West appear to be relatively stable.

Because Cooper's Hawks are inconspicuous, especially when they are nesting, it is difficult to get a clear picture of their status.

Birds of prey are marvolious creatures to watch and created to fill a certain niche.

Most of the time the weed out the sick and weak birds.

As mentioned before, this helps to keep a healthy gene pool which means healtier birds for us to enjoy.

I don't enjoy seeing Cardinal or Blue jay feathers in my yard, but it is a fact of life.

If not my yard then some other yard or in the woods, it will happen.


The circle of life.

How exciting.

Of the hundreds of hawk and birds chases I've witnessed, I can recall one success.

I believe the success rate is 1 out of every 10 attempts.

10%, is not a very good success rate for anything we want to accomplish, is it?

There you have it on Cooper's Hawk.

Well, it's time to fly for now.

However, before I go........................

Here is your positive thought of the week.

The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart.

-- Mencius (371-291 B.C.)

Isn't this qoute more or less a follow up on last week's qoute?

Well, there must be something to having a child like heart and keeping the faith.

A child's heart is more than youth an exuberance.

A child's heart is full of energy and play.

A child's heart has faith.

A child's heart also believes and trusts others until it has been hurt to many times.

A child's heart also believes it can.

It can discover and accomplish.

A child's heart dares to explore.

A child's heart is full of creativity, innocence and love.

It doesn't understand the words can't or impossible.

A child's heart is full of uncondiotional love and laughs with the world.

If you think you have lost your child's heart, look for it and become that great man or woman you were meant to be.

It is never to late

Oh sure our body may have something to say about it, but your heart..............

Your heart is where it's at.

Your heart allows God into your life and that will keep you forever young.

Today you will move toward your child heart once agian.

Today you can laugh and smile as you once did as a child (no cart wheels).

Today the world is yours to chase.

Child like heart.

Child like faith.

A great man or woman.

Are you with me?

Now let's go catch that tiger.

Smile and smile some more.

Until next time.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers. Better yet, have them sign up so they can recieve their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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