Got a Backyard Cooper’s Hawk? There Will be Blood

The Cooper’s Hawk Art of Hunting

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Traits that allow the Cooper’s Hawk to surprise its prey when hunting also make it difficult to observe by humans.

But we were lucky to witness a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter Cooperii) hunting and capture our observations in a series of photographs.

Cooper’s Hawks Hunt Backyard Birds

If you’re into birds and have bird feeders, you’ve encountered the backyard bird-eating terrors known as Cooper’s Hawks.

These beautiful accipiters are amazing hunters from both perches and on the wing.

They approach their prey stealthily, using dense vegetation to conceal their approach and then attack their target with a sudden burst of speed.

For Backyard Birds, There Will be Blood

After finding clumps of feathers close to our bird feeders and blood on the patio behind our office, we knew Cooper’s Hawks or Sharp-shinned Hawks were dining on our songbirds.

We didn’t see the birds flying through the yard, but we weren’t looking outside the office windows all day, either.

Then early one morning, Dan was at his desk and saw a large object land in the Pine Tree overlooking the feeders.

Cooper’s Hawk perched in Pine Tree checking out its dining option

Dan was suspicious and grabbed his camera to see what was happening.

Immediately all the songbirds scatter to the nearby bush for refuge from the predator.

His suspicions were correct. Covertly perching in the Pine Tree was a beautiful juvenile Cooper’s Hawk.

The bird has red-orange eyes with a drip-like brown, vertical streaking on the breast indicating it’s a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk.

Adult Cooper’s Hawks have crimson red eyes and a barring pattern on their chest.

Cooper's_Hawk _perched_in_tree
Cooper’s Hawk using Pine Tree to conceal its approach

Birds in the Bush

The hawk stands still observing the songbirds in the bush and then jumps to the ground, and slowly walks closer.

Just before the Cooper’s Hawk gets close to its target, the bird displays a sudden burst of speed and jumps into the bush.

Cooper's Hawk quietly approaches songbirds in the bush
Cooper’s Hawk quietly approaches songbirds in the bush

Watching this play out, Dan runs outside making noise to drive the Cooper’s Hawk away.

It’s never our intention to interfere with the circle of life, but we’re not serving up songbirds on a silver platter for this bird of prey either.

The Cooper’s Hawk doesn’t easily scare, but finally, it flies off, and the songbirds go on to live another day.

As Dan is walking back into the office, he notices several songbirds and Mourning Doves sitting on the roof watching this scenario play out.

He feels like he’s on bird reality tv.

Cooper's Hawk giving us a quick look before it runs into the bush to attack the songbirds
Cooper’s Hawk giving us a quick look before it runs into the bush to attack the songbirds


Cooper’s Hawk Conservation

We love our birds of prey and do everything we can to help protect them, even though that means having the occasional bird parts and blood strewn over our patio and back yards.

Birds of prey, like the Cooper’s Hawk, play an important ecological role by controlling rodents and other small mammals.

Here are a few things we should all be doing to help save these beautiful birds of prey, or what we call Cooper’s Hawk Conservation.

According to the Audubon, Cooper’s Hawks are not considered threatened or endangered, but they are at risk from a variety of threats.

One of the most dangerous threats these birds face is from rodenticide poisoning.

Whatever an animal eats, especially poison, travels up the food chain. Illustration by Raptors are the Solution
Whatever an animal eats, especially poison, travels up the food chain. Illustration by Raptors are the Solution

Although these hawks are carnivorous raptors and known as bird-eating birds, they also eat many small mammals, such as chipmunks, tree squirrels, ground squirrels, mice, and bats.

Poisoned rodents kill the birds of prey eating them, so please think before using rodenticide in or around your home.

Protect Cooper’s Hawks Against Window Collisions

Another severe threat facing these birds of prey are window collisions.

These hawks are flocking to urban and suburban areas because of the food supply from backyard feeders, so it’s important to make windows visible to these birds that catch prey during high-speed chases.

Birds perceive reflections in the glass as a habitat they can fly into.

And combine the bird’s flying speeds when chasing songbirds with their inability to perceive reflections, and you have a dangerous mix.

Many of the Cooper’s Hawks brought to wildlife rehabilitators suffer severe injuries from window collisions such as head trauma and nerve injuries.

Archer, a beautiful male Cooper's Hawk and bird ambassador for Christine's Critters. Archer suffered a permanent wing nerve injury after colliding into a window chasing a songbird
Archer, a beautiful male Cooper’s Hawk and bird ambassador for Christine’s Critters. Archer suffered a permanent wing nerve injury after colliding into a window chasing a songbird

The damage can be so severe they can never make it back to the wild.

But you can help by installing screens or breaking up reflections by using film, paint, or bird savers decals on the outside of windows spaced no more than two inches high or two inches wide.

Where to Buy Window Decals

Several wildlife nonprofits and bird organizations sell window decals. You can Google them and support your favorite.

We recommend purchasing window clings from Christine’s Critters, a fabulous wildlife rehabilitator helping to save birds of prey in southern Connecticut.

Two of Christine’s Critters bird ambassadors are window collision survivors, so this is a cause that is very close to their hearts.

Taking these steps is essential to protecting these beautiful birds of prey.

Now grab your binoculars, get out, and see birds!


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  1. Great post Renee! Good balance re admiring this beautiful winged predator/serving up songbirds a la carte. Too funny. I had an American Kestrel checking out my back yard some years ago. Enjoy those birdies 😉

    • Thanks David. We admire these gorgeous birds of prey, but hate our songbirds are on their menu. But they have to eat too. We have a combination of Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks flying through several times a day.

  2. Thank you very much for posting this Renee. We have been agonizing for months about what to do about an adult, female Cooper’s Hawk who seems to have taken up residence in our backyard. I live in an area of Arizona that has huge flocks of wild Peach Faced Love birds. We have 4 feeders and 3 water sources set up for them. At times we have 20-30 feeding and bathing. Sadly, all the food and water attracts pigeons and doves too even though the feeders all have the protective cages over them so only small birds can get in to eat. This week the hawk has taken to killing about 1-2 love birds daily. I would not mind a bit if it was just pigeons and doves but not the love birds. I get circle of life and all that but somehow the love birds are different to me and it just breaks my heart every single time I find one half eaten in the yard. I’m struggling with this…a lot.

    • Well, we all have our own personal preference when it comes to birds…Mine happens to be the Spring Dove…Watching them as a coupling and observing the dedication and love for one another melts my heart…Im soooo jealous!!! I have a coupling of Spring Doves nesting right outside my window, but the shrubs they chose to build their nest in is so dilled wirh trees rhat nothing can land there and bother them…So, this spot has been their permanent spot for awhile…I understand the circle of life, but nit on my watch and certainly not so up close and personal…I want no harm to come to them…So, if any predator were to come near…They get two warning shots from my pellet/bb gun…

      • Hi Denise. We enjoy watching Mourning Doves too because of the affection they display to another, so it’s painful to see their feathers on the ground indicating they were taken by a hawk. We don’t like to interfere with the circle of life, but when we see a hawk stalking the songbirds we’ll make a noise until it flies off. No one gets hurt and the songbirds live another day. Please be careful with that bb gun!

      • Shooting birds of prey anywhere in the U.S. is illegal and will land you in jail if you’re caught. And rightfully so. Few of us enjoy seeing our songbirds eaten by predators, but killing those predators is psychopathic. If that’s your answer to the predation you view as a problem, I recommend you take down your bird feeders and get some therapy. You need it.

  3. I dont like hawks around my house killing birds making me watch death and blood and feathers i m getting a fake owl to keep them away

    • It makes ne sick to see the savagery predators display during a hunt, and the corpses they leave behind…Mainly Cooper Hawks, or any Hawk and Falcons…They are awful, and should hunt in the wild, not in residential areas where prey comes easy for them…I bought a Pellet/BB gun to scare them off wirh warning shots…It works!!!

      • Hi Steve. Life in the wild is hard for every species and nature gave wildlife what they need to survive. Humanity brought the Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks to residential areas with bird feeders. The birds of prey are simply following the food source. It’s illegal to harm any bird. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the take (including killing, capturing, selling, trading, and transport) of protected migratory bird species without prior authorization by the Department of Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

      • The fact you feel the need to shoot at or even near something that is feeding itself is makes me “sick”. I would make me smile to know that every time you were hungry and trying to eat someone shot at you with a pellet rifle to scare you away…..

        • Bill we don’t harm birds. We help save them. Nor do we condone shooting at them. It’s illegal and wrong. We have seen far too many birds of prey injured by arrows, gunshots and lead poisoning and it’s heartbreaking.

  4. I just found a dead mother hawk. Her two babies were waiting in a (sort of) hidden place. Have called sanctuary in North Spokane and they said to bring them in. Neighbors helped me corral them into a cardboard box with shredded paper towels in bottom and big holes in the top. Now we can deliver them to Ponti’s Veterinary where they will have help growing to adulthood! They are gorgeous!!!

    • Hi Debra. Big high-five to you! Thanks for being so proactive and helping the young hawks. They’re in a place where they will be raised by other hawks so they be returned to their home: nature. And yes, we agree. They are gorgeous birds.

    • Technically, the natural order was disrupted when they chose to unnaturally concentrate birds around feeders. Is tit for tat.

  5. A trio showed up in my yard 3 weeks ago
    Still here…
    My cats died 10 months ago
    No control on the local bird, squirrels, rats, nor bunnie population

    • We just moved to a new home and two Cooper hawks have decided to show up. We have a cat. Did it take your cat?? The Cooper hawks are on the smaller side so we have been wondering if they would go after a small animal like a cat or dog. We also love songbirds and have yet to set up our bird feeders. I will be sad it we can’t recreate what we had in our other home.

      • Cooper’s hawks cannot carry off more than they weigh. They weigh about 1 1/2 pounds so there is little to no threat to cats and dogs.

  6. Just stumbled onto this site, while trying to identify the hawk presently dining on kildee, on my wood pile.
    Magnificent bird!
    Hoping he just sticks with the birds that are of abundance here, and leaves the oriole and red headed woodpecker pairs alone!
    Was quite a sight watching him tear into that kildee!

  7. This was very interesting to read. Recently I have had a Hawk hanging out in my backyard, I do have feeders out, I also have pretty many chipmunks living in my backyard, after reading this article about city Hawks I understand that’s what I am dealing with, a Coopers Hawk. Thank you

    • Hi Michele. Yes, Cooper’s Hawks are a real threat for any free ranging flock. (So are Red-shouldered Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks.)

      Cooper’s Hawks are fierce hunters flying down under trees(where your flock might be be hiding) to take out their victim. No place is safe from a Cooper’s Hawk, so make your property less Cooper’s Hawk friendly by hanging shiny objects that flutter in the wind and reflect sunshine. Hawks don’t like blinding bright light coming their way so they’ll keep moving along. The bird won’t be injured and you flock will be safer. Use old CDs and glue them back to back and hang them on strings from the tree branches.

  8. My husband and I just noticed a smaller male Cooper’s hawk on our farm. We have a large one( about 2 feet high) that we noticed hunting our goat pasture. Our question, is the smaller hawk an offspring of the larger one? We are wondering if they are territorial with other males. Do we possibly have an extended family of Cooper’s on our farm? That would be great. They are beautiful. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  9. Juvenile Cooper’s do not display any shade of red in the eye.
    Humans should not interfere with a hunting hawk but should remain neutral in a process of observation.
    Cooper’s adults are very easily distinguished from adult Goshawks as the chest plumage is much different in coloration (orange vs whitish/grey). Sharp-shinned also display this difference.

  10. Coopers are impressive flyers and hunters. That said, having lost multiple chickens to them, it is annoying to have to constantly deal with them. But they are federally protected like all hawks and we just have to keep solidifying our areas so they can’t get in. They don’t need much of an opening,.

  11. Hi Renee, nice article. Thanks for posting it. I have seen Cooper’s Hawks and Eastern Fox Squirrels ignoring each other twice in the last few years. Once they were both on the ground about 20 feet apart, and the second time the hawk was sitting on a branch and two squirrels were chasing on nearby branches. Could it be that Cooper’s hawks don’t prey on that particular species?

  12. Outskirts/east of Toronto, Canada. I was thrilled to see a Cooper’s Hawk in my backyard today – first sighting ever this close up. I have a gazebo that I turn into a covered feeding station over winter and it was sitting there on one of the branches. It was about 6″ above the ground and at first, I wondered if it was OK, but after allowing me to watch for several minutes, it flew off to a neighbours backyard. I was so happy to see it (unsure m/f, adult/youth) – our neighbourhoods have been infested with rats in our sheds/garages every since the first COVID lockdown and no restaurant trash to eat from. I have found one or two bird corpses over the summer, perhaps this is the reason. Though I don’t like to see anything killed, I understand the food chain, we all have to eat and creatures die for all kinds of reasons, I’d much rather see a predator eat than a domestic cat killing them. I have no problem with bunnies eating my plants, or deer eating my shrubs, for me, it’s the price I pay for the privilege of having wildlife come to visit.

    • Hi Janny. We agree with you. We love seeing Cooper’s Hawks in our backyard, and as much as we love our songbirds, it’s just nature being nature.

      And allowing bunnies and deer to fest on our plants and shrubs is a small price to pay for the privilege of having wildlife visit our backyard. We all need to COEXIST!

  13. We have a resident Coopers hawk just got this photo yesterday hated to see the little finch in its clutches but I love raptors too and they need to eat. They are a beautiful part of the wild world even in our backyard. I wish I could share the photo I took.

  14. Protecting chickens and song birds is one thing, but how do I protect myself? The Cooper’s started building their nest just outside of my back door, again! This is the sixth year in a row. They have drawn my blood twice—once from a scratch on the shoulder and once from hitting the back of my head (they always attack from behind). They have startled me many times as I feel their feathers or the wind from their wings. I use an umbrella when harvesting cherries. They hit the umbrella a few times but then figured out how to come under it and hit my shoulder with the tip of their wing. Big google eyes on the umbrella enraged them even more. An air horn and a high power squirt gun worked at first, but they learn and get me when I turn my back. I wear a pith hemet in the garden that they hit several times, but it gives me a little sense of safety. They mostly ignore my wife and kids, but they aim for me! Once the little ones fledge (after 5 weeks as eggs and 4 as hatchlings), I can relax outside again.

    • I have the same problem and have been attacked 3 times. I am afraid to go outside. They silently come up behind at full force it’s like getting hit with a 2×4 and drawing blood each time. Just don’t know how to get them to leave me alone

      • Hi Carol. We’re sorry to hear that your Cooper’s Hawks are aggressive toward you. We researched hawk attacks, and experts suggest when you’re attacked by a hawk, don’t turn and run. Instead, face the hawk, make loud noises, and wave your arms to scare it off. We hope this helps. If this behavior persists, wear a football helmet or hardhat for your own protection.

  15. A couple Coopers Hawks showed up and started living in the trees above my house. We have a little wild blackberry patch that has been home to hundreds of quail for the 20 some years I’ve lived here. The hawks are thinning the population by about four quail a day. They have figured out when I take my dogs for a walk quail are going to be flushed. Trained hunting dogs, self-trained hawks. I’m going to miss those quail. I miss my goldfinches.

  16. We had to take our bird feeders down in March due to a pair of Coopers Hawks. They were using our feeders as a “McDonalds Drive thru”. We were so sad. Now the pair has nested in a huge pine and has 3 babies. I know it is just nature but these birds have almost decimated our entire bird population. UGH.

    • Hi Jenn. We’re had some turbulent weeks with Coops and Sharpies decimating our songbirds, but taking down feeders for a few days re-sets things. The good news is that the Coop family should be moving on soon. Here’s hoping you enjoy the songbirds flying through for fall migration.

  17. I had a Cooper’s hawk in my garden in Denver today by itself. Walking around. Looked like it was hunting mice. 1st one in a long time–maybe 2- yr.

  18. There is a coopers hawk that is stuck in the warehouse that I work at and DEC officer said there is nothing he can do. What can we do to get him to get out safely.?? I live in upstate NY

  19. Thank you for so much great information and helping me to identify the Coppers hawk that has recently taken up residence near the feeders outside my kitchen window. This morning I saw the most amazing thing when the Coop flew through the throng of birds one of our roosters and hens both charged the hawk scaring it off. Our two pet geese and flock of chickens and roosters eat the birdseed mix off the ground to which I add chicken scratch to. Also we have a table out there for the crows and ravens where we put food scraps and have seen them chase off hawks and eagles and by sounding the alert. The chickens also keep the cats away from the feeders! Our dogs get into the action barking up at the hawks too.

  20. I have no sympathy for Cooper’s Hawks. They hang out in our area and kill our songbirds. The songbirds have enough predators that I don’t want the hawks. I would like to shoot them.

    • I agree with Jessica, it is not honorable, nor does it make you a good steward of your property.
      I’m not sure if they go after certain birds because they are easier to harvest or taste better. Since I last posted, I have lost a male cardinal to the Cooper that hunts my yard/property. He mostly takes kildeers, I think because they are easier to harvest and plentiful.
      It’s the law of nature, who am I to interfere with their existence?

  21. I agree with Jessica, it is not honorable, nor does it make you a good steward of your property.
    I’m not sure if they go after certain birds because they are easier to harvest or taste better. Since I last posted, I have lost a male cardinal to the Cooper that hunts my yard/property. He mostly takes kildeers, I think because they are easier to harvest and plentiful.
    It’s the law of nature, who am I to interfere with their existence?

  22. We have had one in our yard for the past 6 months or more and witnessed 3 killings. Always seeing feathers lately and all the birds (we had SOOO many) are gone now. I’m so bummed about it. I am assuming there is nothing I can do and it is just wildlife doing what is does.

    • Hi Carolyn. It’s difficult seeing feathers in your yard knowing a songbird was taken by a Cooper’s Hawk or Sharp-shinned Hawk, but these birds of prey are doing what nature intended. Remember the loss of one life sustains another.

  23. We rarely see Cooper’s Hawks but now have one that has been in our yard 2 days in a row. We do have feeders and have a good variety of finch and lots of Quail roam the neighborhood. I watched this juvenile for 2 1/2 hours yesterday. He did manage to catch a finch. He waited until the were comfortable coming around. (They were flying in and then immediately leaving when they saw him). I have video of the catch and kill. It took him 12 minutes to eat the entire finch (I have footage of that too). We are going to leave the feeders and ground empty for a few days to discourage him from coming back. There are plenty of parks/trees nearby so he should be able to get his fill of small mammals. Living in a suburban area, it’s very odd to see them so close to a home.

  24. Yesterday two HUGE hawks have swarming our property and they are still here today. They are BIG! I would say they are the size of bald eagles!! Neither me or my grandma have seen such big hawks here ever before. But we also have outdoor cats and they are in danger with these huge birds stalking around here. How do we get them to leave?! I tried an airhorn thinking it would scare them away and an owl decoy, but that didn’t work.

  25. Hello Everyone :
    The last year and a half a Cooper Hawk has been making our lives living H___. I have tried Megaphone, rocks, screaming long sticks and she just looks at me. I have deterred herei screaming the neighbors have had itt with me. So I bought a Nerf Pilot and it works just fine. If I am in the yard she does not terrorize the American Crows and she won’t other to catch breakfast. But as soon as I step inside 10 minutes later she is back. Does anyone have any ideas?
    Than you

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