Tag Archives: Accipiter cooperii

WHERE EVER TRAVELS A FLOCK OF SONGBIRDS, SO FOLLOWS THE COOPER’S HAWK

Throughout the summer and autumn, juvenile Cooper’s Hawk(s) have been observed hunting on Eastern Point. We see them zooming low and stealthily down roadways and soaring high amongst the treetops. There is no way of knowing if they are one and the same although one bird in particular appears to have developed a keen interest in the flock of Dark-eyed Juncos currently foraging in the neighborhood. Nearly every evening at dusk he hungrily swoops in, but never seems to capture one.

Well-camouflaged Dark-eyed Juncos, also known as Snowbirds

The Snowbirds have a neat set of tricks. They all scatter to the surrounding trees and shrubs. The slate gray and brown Dark-eyed Juncos are well camouflaged but that is not their only secret to survival.  Rather than singing their typical lovely bird song, from their hiding places, they all begin making an odd chirping-clicking sound. From every bush and shrub within the nearby vicinity, you can hear the clicks. I think the clicking is meant to confuse the Cooper’s Hawk!

He’ll first dive into a bush hunting a Junco, come up unsuccessfully, then swoop over to a nearby tree, perched and well hidden in the branches while on the lookout for dinner. The Snowbirds click non-stop until the Cooper’s departs. After the hunter flies away, they all come out of their hiding places, some from branches mere feet from where the Cooper’s was perched. After a short time, they resume their lovely varied birdsong.  I recorded audio of the Junco’s clicking and hope to find out more about this fascinating behavior.

Although we hope the young Cooper’s is finding food, I am rather glad he’s not that good at catching Snowbirds.

Cooper’s Hawks are a conservation success story. You can read more about the reason why in a post form several years ago: SPLENDID COOPER’S HAWK – A CONSERVATION SUCCESS STORY GIVES HOPE. Note the difference in the plumage in the two stories. The Cooper’s Hawk in that post is an adult. The Cooper’s chasing the Snowbirds is a juvenile. Both are about crow-sized, with the typical flat topped head.

Adult Cooper’s Hawk

Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk

SPLENDID COOPER’S HAWK – A CONSERVATION SUCCESS STORY GIVES HOPE

Cooper’s Hawk at Twilight

A crow-sized bird, we often see Cooper’s Hawks at the edge of woodlands where mature trees grow. They have a blue-gray back and rusty orange streaking on white breast, similar to Sharp-shinned Hawks. The easiest way  to differentiate the two species is by their head shape and size. Sharp-shinned Hawks have smaller, rounder heads, while the Cooper’s head is larger and flatter on top.

The explosion of Cooper’s Hawks in Massachusetts is a result of several factors. Partly because fewer dairy farms has led to plant succession and maturing forests. Cooper’s nest toward the top of tall trees.

As with so many species of birds, the banning of DDT has also played a role in the bird’s resurgence.

Cooper’s Hawks prey on chickens. They were at one time considered a pest and hunted mercilessly. Because of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it is illegal to hunt and kill birds of prey, and punishable by a fine of up to 15,000.00 and six months in jail.

Cooper’s Hawks also prey on squirrels, pigeons, starlings, and sparrows, all of which are abundant in suburban and urban environments. With their ability to adapt to human behaviors and habitats, Cooper’s Hawks, Barred Owls, and Red-tailed Hawks are rapidly expanding their breeding range in Massachusetts. In thinking about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and in banning dangerous chemicals that harm wildlife, it gives hope to think about how changes in our laws and behavior have had a profoundly positive impact on these three beautiful species.

Most Cooper’s Hawks migrate south for the winter but increasingly more and more are choosing to overwinter in Massachusetts.

Cooper’s Hawk range map

STARTING THE NEW YEAR OFF ON A HAPPY BUT MELANCHOLY NOTE

As was the case for so many, New Year’s Day was joyful but bittersweet, too. I drove Liv to the airport at dawn for her return trip to LA. She can work remotely and was able to travel home in early December, before the second surge. When she arrived home she quarantined, taking a Covid test prior to, and again after arriving. Liv extended her visit an extra week so that she did not have to fly back last weekend. It’s nerve wracking dropping her off at the airport but she has had to fly occasionally for work during the pandemic and Delta is only allowing at most 50 percent capacity. She flies at odd times so the planes are mostly empty, and she is often allowed to upgrade to first class for free, as she was on this flight. All that being said, with the surge on top of the surge and the new strain running rampant, praying and hoping she will remain safe and Covid-free.

Having both adult children home, along with our darling Charlotte here with us full time, we are having more fun as a family – cooking together, playing card games, laughing, joking, and telling stories. This family time together has been the silver lining to the pandemic and the part I will choose to remember.

I stopped on the way home to watch the planes taking off and snap a photo of the first sunrise of 2021.

After returning from the airport, Charlotte and I took one of our mini nature walks around Eastern Point. The very first creature we encountered was a young Double-crested Cormorant. He was attempting to cross the berm. We almost walked right into him! For some reason we couldn’t quite understand, he didn’t care to fly from Brace Cove to Niles Pond, but was on foot.

After we stood very quietly for several minutes (no small feat for a three-year-old) he decided we weren’t a threat and crossed our path, not three feet away!

Continuing on our mini trek, we spotted the rare Black-headed Gull bobbing along in the cove (see yesterday’s post).

To top off our day, a young Cooper’s Hawk flew overhead and landed in a nearby tree.

Wishing you a healthy New Year Friends!

SOME BEAUTIFUL CREATURES YOU’LL SEE ON OUR SHORES IN EARLY JUNE

A random grouping of recently spotted birds. The Song Sparrow and Cooper’s Hawk were seen in the lot at Good Harbor beach. Beautiful creatures surround here on Cape Ann, even in parking lots 🙂

Sanderlings migrating north

EXQUISITE COOPER’S HAWK

Cooper's Hawk Rockport MA www.kimsmithdesigns.com 2016 -3Cooper’s Hawk, at least I think it is an immature Cooper’s Hawk. Raptor experts reading this please weigh in!

Several nights ago while filming at T Wharf in truly gorgeous fading light a very cool hawk flew on the scene, hungrily hunting amidst the flock of pigeons that were circling around Motif #1. The kerfuffle was captured on film, and then he perched about fifteen feet away from where I was standing! I very slowly and quietly turned cameras toward him. The hawk stayed for a few moments longer before heading back out to chase the pigeons.

I believe this is an immature Cooper’s Hawk because of the beautiful teardrop-shaped patterning of the feathers on its breast, the distinguishing three bars on its long tail, and the yellow eyes. What do you think?

Cooper's Hawk Rockport MA www.kimsmithdesigns.com 2016 -2Cooper's Hawk Rockport MA www.kimsmithdesigns.com 2016

The light was so dim and the hawk photos were shot at only a shutter speed of 40 and high ISO of 5400. Nonetheless, I’m impressed with the clarity of the images from my new lens when shooting in very low light conditions.

Filming at TWharf last night in beautiful light

A photo posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Motif #1 (Not fuji, iPhone 6sPlus photo)