Female Cooper’s Hawk: Everything You Need To Know

Female Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s hawks are medium-sized hawks belonging to the genus Accipiter, endemic to the North American continent, found from Southern Canada to Mexico. 

Known for their vicious and opportunistic hunting methods, as well as their agile bodies that help them hint it that way, Cooper’s hawks are certainly a fascinating bird to study and learn. 

Named after William Cooper, an ornithologist responsible for bringing the specimen to scientific study, it is also called by many other names like big blue darter, flying cross, chicken hawk, and so on. 

Almost all of the names used to refer to these birds are an indicator of their highly effective and agile hunting ways that will astound even the most talented human hunter.

As with most birds of prey, female Cooper’s hawks are larger than their male counterparts. 

Apart from this, there are many differences between the male and female like in their nesting, hunting, and breeding behaviors, which can help you understand if Cooper’s hawk you are observing is a male or a female. 

So today we are going to look at some of the key differences, while also getting a complete overview of female hawks and everything you need to know about them.

What Does A Female Cooper’s Hawk Look Like?

With moderate-sized wings and a large, wedged tail, the female Cooper’s hawk sports a warm reddish-hued brown shade all over their bodies. 

They have two large eyes set forward in their squarish heads and have a relatively short but robust bill. 

Their beaks are well adapted for their vicious hunting and feeding behaviors and have a well-defined hook used to tear prey apart. 

Adult females sport a paler strip of plumage around their eyes, above which they have a wonderful blackish-brown crown.

The primary difference in appearance when you are talking about female Cooper’s hawks is in size. 

Like with most birds of prey, the female here is much larger than a male – the female is taller by 20 percent and heavier by 40 percent. 

This is about a length of 17 – 20 inches in females compared to 14 – 18 inches in males.

Apart from this main difference, the males also have a more powder blue hint to their back feathers, while females have a more consistent warm brown on their back feathers as well.

How Can You Tell The Difference Between A Male And Female Cooper’s Hawk?

Height14 – 18 inches17 – 21 inches
Weight9 – 10 ounces1.043 pounds
PlumageBluish hues presentMainly warm brown and gray
Eye ColorDarker orange eyesLighter eyes, more yellow
BeakSmaller than femaleLarger and more efficient
NestingForages for food, safekeeping of nestResponsible for incubation
VocalizationsAbout 20 calls, quieter and higher pitchedUpto 40 calls
MigrationMigrate after femalesMigrate a week earlier than males
HuntingHunt small birds and mammalsHunt relatively larger prey

What Does A Female Cooper’s Hawk Eat?

Cooper’s hawks are known to be bold and aggressive predators, who are highly opportunistic in their hunting methods. 

The female cooper’s hawk will usually forage for her own meals except for when she lays her eggs and is responsible for incubation. 

During this period, the male is responsible for going out and foraging food for him and his mate, while the female takes care of the incubation, and later on, the nestlings.

Female Cooper’s hawks have a vast and varied diet that passes through many animal groups. 

Their most common menu item, which is their favorite as well, is small birds like doves, sparrows, chickens, and quails. 

In particularly scarce or arid situations, the hawks consume insects like lizards and beetles. They also enjoy small mammals like rabbits, hares, squirrels, and other rodents. 

Even though they usually capture live prey and consume it, there have been cases observed where Cooper’s hawks feed on carrion, which is already dead prey.

What Is A Female Cooper’s Hawk Called?

There is no particular name used to refer to the female cooper’s hawk.

Female Cooper’s Hawk Breeding And Nesting Behavior

If you get the opportunity to observe Cooper’s hawk before you for a while, their behavior can also tell you a lot about the gender of your bird. 

As opposed to many other more common bird breeding behaviors, the males are not the dominant ones in their attracting rituals. 

They are submissive to the females and wait on the female’s command to proceed with their approach. 

The female Cooper’s hawk sings a lovely little song that is meant to reassure the male that she is okay with being approached!

Once the male is given the thumbs up to carry on, he continues on with his courtship rituals, after which it fascinatingly bows to the female! 

Another part of the courtship ritual is when the male shows off his architectural skills by building the majority of their future nest while the female supervises and makes corrections. 

Once they copulate and the female lays eggs, she is busy with incubation, which lasts for about 34 – 36 days. 

Incubation is mainly the female’s responsibility, while the male takes over for short bursts of time.

As the female is incubating, the male is responsible for foraging for food. He brings the foraged food to the female who then rips it up for him using her longer, more efficient beak, and he distributes it among the nestlings.

Do Female Cooper’s Hawks Mate With More Than One Male?

No, they do not. Female Cooper’s hawks are monogamous like all others in the hawk family and thus mate with only one partner during a breeding season. 

Fascinatingly though, their loyalty does reach beyond that because if external conditions allowed, hawks would mate for life, as has been observed by scientists many a time.

Sometimes, even if the hawks do not live in the same vicinity all year round, they will come together to breed during the breeding season.

What Is The Lifespan Of A Female Cooper’s Hawk?

The average lifespan of a female Cooper’s hawk is about 10 years, with the oldest recorded migrant bird being 12 years of age, and one in the wild going up to an astonishing 20 years. 

Cooper’s hawks have longevity once they reach their adult stages but reaching there is the task for these fellows as their mortality rate is much higher than younglings and juveniles.


And that was a fascinating venture into the world of these brilliantly agile, wondrously plumaged birds! 

We hope you had a fun time exploring with us and that you learned something new about the bird kingdom today!

Thank you for reading!

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