Nesting Cooper's Hawks

The Cooper's hawks that have been cavorting about our farm for the past couple of weeks are now preparing to nest in one of the large Siberian elms.  Actually, the male is building the nest, piling sticks atop one of several squirrel nests in that tree.  Stopping to rest or to hunt for himself, he spends most of his day on the farm.  Meanwhile, the much larger female departs for extended periods of time, letting her mate handle the construction work.

Sources disagree on this point, some reporting that both partners construct the nest while others confirm my observation.  In either case, it will take a couple of weeks to finish the nest and another month of incubation before the fuzzy chicks appear.  The female will provide most of the incubation and the male will do the hunting during that period.  Since Cooper's hawks feed primarily on mid-sized songbirds, the local doves, pigeons, flickers, jays and robins may be in for a harrowing summer.  Large females are also known to take rabbits and squirrels, a practice that might offer some balance to their populations on our farm.

For now, there is no panic among the songbirds and rabbits and squirrels continue to use the nest tree.  That may change in the coming weeks, especially when the raptors have hungry chicks to feed!