Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii
Male Cooper's Hawks are dark gray on the back with a black crown and paler neck and face. The belly is white with distinct horizontal rufous bars extending from the neck to the tail and legs. The iris of the eye is deep red and the feet are yellow. Adult females have similar markings, except they have more brown on the back and the eye color is paler. Juveniles are brown on the back with some white streaking on the belly, and the tail has a white tip and three or four dark brown bars. Cooper's Hawks measure from 14 to 20 inches in length with wingspans of 27 to 36 inches. Females are somewhat larger than males. A medium-size diurnal raptor with rounded wings, a long brown/black banded tail (often rounded at the end), and a hooked bill; adult is mainly gray/brown above, barred rusty brown below, with strong contrast between dark crown and paler nape and back; immature is paler, with brown upperparts, dark-streaked whitish or buffy underparts, and white undertail coverts. Average length 36 to 51 centimeters, wingspan 74 to 94 centimeters; females average larger than males.
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Appearance is similar to that of the Northern Goshawk and the Sharp-shinned Hawk. Differs from Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) by larger size; longer, more rounded tail that has a wider white terminal band; larger head; and (in adult) stronger contrast between the dark crown and paler nape and back. Differs from Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) in smaller size (average length 36 to 51 cm vs. 53 to 66 cm); lack of conspicuous pale eyebrow; less conspicuous white undertail coverts; broader white tip on tail; and proportionately longer tail and shorter wings.
Western Hemisphere Range
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
SUMMER (Feb 16 - Dec 14)
Direct Evidence of Breeding
Indirect Evidence of Breeding
No Evidence of Breeding
WINTER (Dec 15 - Feb 15)
Not Regularly Observed
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Bozeman migration: April 15 to May 10 and September 10 to October 1; no peaks (Skaar 1969). Statewide peaks: April 21 to 30 and late August to early September (Davis 1961).
They nest in dense deciduous and coniferous forest cover, often in draws or riparian areas. They hunt in these areas or in adjacent open country. In the Bozeman area, winter birds occur in forests and thickets of valley. In summer, they are confined to the forest edge in the foothills (Skaar 1969).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: mtnhp.org/requests
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
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- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Human Land Use
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Shrubland, Steppe and Savanna Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Small to medium-sized birds comprise most of the diet of Cooper's Hawks, although they also eat small mammals.
Numbers are decreasing in the Fortine area. Numbers were described as the most common hawk in SW MT before turn of century. This is not true today (Skaar 1969).
Cooper's Hawks arrive at their nesting territories in late March and early April. Clutches of three to five eggs are usually laid by mid-May. They hatch after an incubation of 30 to 34 days. The young fly about 30 days after hatching and remain in the vicinity of the nest for up to three weeks after leaving it. Flying young seen August 2 near Fortine. Dates are probably somewhat later than those reported in northern Utah: nestlings found by June 19 and fledged young by July 30 (Johnsgard 1986).
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
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- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
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