Our Hunting Hawk

Cooper’s hawks appear in our yard, from time to time, scoping out the bird feeder action.  They are medium-sized hawks that prey primarily on smaller birds.  Years ago, I watched one pluck and eat a mourning dove at our old house.  Since then, I haven’t seen one successfully hunt in the yard.

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk on Dove 2007

Over the last month, a Cooper’s hawk has been visiting my yard with some regularity.  No longer a rare sighting, he’s been around consistently once or twice every week.  Usually, he sees me before I see him and I just glimpse a flash of his tail feathers as he quickly flies off.  Their keen eyesight and skittish nature can make them hard to photograph.

I recently returned from a weekend away to find a pile of small, gray feathers scattered under the feeder.  The remains of a junco.   They’re one of my favorite birds.  It made me a little sad.  I wish he’d eat the house sparrows instead – they’re not native to the US and have overrun the place, displacing native birds all along the way.junco remains

This morning, I filled the feeders and sat down with my coffee.  I thought it was odd that there weren’t any birds out. I got up and took a quick look for the hawk and then went back to what I was doing.  A few minutes later, some movement caught my eye.

Hawk 2
First Glimpse

The Cooper’s hawk was slowly walking along the edge of the garden bed, carefully eyeing the bushes and ground cover.  He seemed to use the post of the birdfeeder as cover, deftly peering around it from one side and then the other.  I also used this cover to my advantage and moved closer to the window while the hawk was obscured from view.


He checked each bush, cocking his head from side to side, as he made his way to the deck.


Hopping onto the deck, he preened and relaxed a bit.  After a couple of minutes, he stealthily stepped to the edge and scanned underneath.  He seems quite familiar with all of the birds’ hiding places like he’s been spending some time here.



Two bluejays flew into the mulberry tree.  They’re here for their regular morning peanuts.  Even though they’re quite a bit bigger than the other birds visiting my feeders, they’re fair game for a Cooper’s hawk.  They called from the top of the tree, always announcing their arrival, even to the predator.  They’re bold birds.  The hawk immediately took notice and flew to a lower branch of the same mulberry tree.  He looked up at the two jays, seemingly calculating his odds of successfully getting to one of them. The jays stayed put, calling.

Tree trio
Blue Jays and Cooper’s Hawk

With the hawk focused elsewhere, I ran upstairs to get my camera.  When I arrived back at the window, the hawk was gone.  Off to hunt somewhere else today.  It didn’t take two minutes for the feeders to be busy again with chickadees, sparrows, juncos, cardinals, sparrows and, of course, the jays.

If this hawk is going to be a regular visitor, he’s going to need a name.  My camera is at the window awaiting his return.

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