An Attractive Killer

A large Cooper's hawk (likely a female) has been hanging around our neighborhood for the past few days.  Strafing the trees to snare victims, the accipiter's presence has caught the attention of a blue jay posse, determined to evict her from their territory.

Larger and heavier cousins of the sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper's hawks are also identified by the rounded end of their long, banded tail.  They favor large to medium sized avian prey, zeroing in on flickers, jays, starlings, pigeons and doves; Coopers may also grab a squirrel on occasion.  Victims are killed by suffocation, squeezed in the hawk's powerful talons.

Permanent residents throughout most of the U.S., Cooper's hawks, like many raptors, are perhaps best observed during the colder months, when deciduous trees have dropped their leaves.  Of course, the barren trees also aid their hunting, making prey more visible and accessible.  Though once primarily a resident of forests, these attractive raptors have become increasingly common in suburban areas and wooded farmlands, likely attracted by songbirds at feeders and pigeons in barnyards.