The Red-Tailed Hawk and Copper’s Hawk are two of the most prominent North American prey birds.
Cooper’s hawks are smaller with a slate-blue back and a long tail, while red-tailed hawks are larger, often displaying a distinct red tail and broader wings. These differences in size, coloration, and markings help distinguish between the two hawk species.
Thanks to their widespread habitat and feeding area, you will see these types of birds in your backyard, lawn, garden, or yard. But, you will fail to differentiate these two attractive-looking prey birds.
So, continue reading the article to find the actual differences between these two fantastic game birds.
- Overview of Cooper's hawk and red-tailed hawk
- Key Difference Between Cooper's hawk Vs. Red-Tailed Hawk
- Physical Characteristics
- Habitat and Range
- Tips for Identifying Cooper's Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks
- Behavior and Hunting Techniques
- Nesting and Reproduction
- Interactions with Humans
- Red-tailed hawk's presence in various landscapes
- Frequently Asked Questions
Overview of Cooper’s hawk and red-tailed hawk
Cooper’s hawks and red-tailed hawks are two of the most widespread hawks in North America. Both are medium-sized raptors with long wings and tails, and they are both skilled predators that hunt a variety of small birds and mammals.
Size: Cooper’s hawks are smaller than red-tailed hawks, with a body length of 14 to 22 inches and a wingspan of 35 to 42 inches.
Appearance: Cooper’s hawks have a dark cap, slate-gray back, and rust-colored underparts. They have a long, rounded tail with narrow black bands.
Habitat: Cooper’s hawks are found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, forests, and suburban areas.
Diet: Cooper’s hawks feed primarily on small birds, but they will also eat small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.
Size: Red-tailed hawks are larger than Cooper’s hawks, with a body length of 17 to 25 inches and a wingspan of 45 to 52 inches.
Appearance: Red-tailed hawks have a variable appearance, but they typically have a brown back, a reddish tail, and a white belly. They have a broad, barred tail.
Habitat: Red-tailed hawks are found in a wide variety of habitats, including open fields, mountains, and deserts.
Diet: Red-tailed hawks feed primarily on small mammals, but they will also eat birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
Key Difference Between Cooper’s hawk Vs. Red-Tailed Hawk
|Dark cap, slate-gray back, rust-colored underparts, long, rounded tail with narrow black bands
|Variable appearance, brown back, reddish tail, white belly, broad, barred tail
|Woodlands, forests, suburban areas
|Open fields, mountains, deserts
|Small birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians
|Small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians
Size and Weight
Cooper’s hawks are medium-sized hawks, with a body length of 14 to 22 inches and a wingspan of 35 to 42 inches. Males are typically smaller than females, with males weighing 7.8 to 14.5 ounces (220 to 410 grams) and females weighing 11.6 to 24.0 ounces (330 to 680 grams).
Red-tailed hawks are larger than Cooper’s hawks, with a body length of 17 to 25 inches and a wingspan of 45 to 52 inches. Males are typically smaller than females, with males weighing 20.0 to 33.8 ounces (567 to 960 grams) and females weighing 31.7 to 39.7 ounces (900 to 1,120 grams).
Cooper’s hawks have a distinctive coloration that can be used to distinguish them from other hawks. They have a dark cap, slate-gray back, and rust-colored underparts. They also have a long, rounded tail with narrow black bands.
Red-tailed hawks have a more variable appearance than Cooper’s hawks, but they typically have a brown back, a reddish tail, and a white belly. They also have a broad, barred tail.
Habitat and Range
Cooper’s hawks are found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, forests, and suburban areas. They prefer habitats with dense vegetation, which provides them with cover and hunting opportunities.
Red-tailed hawks are found in a wide variety of habitats, including open fields, mountains, and deserts. They are more adaptable than Cooper’s hawks and can thrive in a wider range of environments.
Cooper’s hawks and red-tailed hawks have overlapping territories in some parts of their ranges. This can make it difficult to distinguish between the two species, especially for inexperienced birders. However, with careful observation and attention to detail, it is usually possible to identify the correct species.
Tips for Identifying Cooper’s Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks
- Tail shape: Cooper’s hawks have a long, rounded tail with narrow black bands, while red-tailed hawks have a broad, barred tail.
- Flight pattern: Cooper’s hawks typically fly in a series of flaps and glides, while red-tailed hawks soar more frequently.
- Behavior: Cooper’s hawks are ambush predators that typically hunt from perches, while red-tailed hawks often hunt from open fields or soar high above the ground.
Behavior and Hunting Techniques
Cooper’s hawks are ambush predators that typically hunt from perches. They will wait for prey to come within range, then burst into a quick chase to capture it.
Cooper’s hawks are very agile and can fly through dense vegetation with ease. This makes them very successful predators of small birds, which they catch by surprise.
Red-tailed hawks use a variety of hunting techniques, including soaring, perching, and still-hunting. They will soar high above the ground, scanning the landscape for prey.
When they spot prey, they will dive down quickly and capture it. Red-tailed hawks are also opportunistic hunters and will take advantage of any opportunity to catch a meal, such as roadkill or injured animals.
The way a hawk hunts can provide clues to its identity. For example, Cooper’s hawks are more likely to hunt from perches, while red-tailed hawks are more likely to soar. It is important to note that these are just general trends, and there is some overlap in the hunting behaviors of the two species.
The difference in Vocalizations
Cooper’s hawks have a variety of vocalizations, including a high-pitched “kee-kee-kee” call that is often used to attract mates. They also make a harsh “ack-ack-ack” call when they are alarmed.
Red-tailed hawks have a more distinctive call than Cooper’s hawks, which is often described as a loud, piercing “keee-yoooo.” They also make a variety of other calls, including a “chee-chee-chee” call that is used to communicate with other hawks.
Listening to the calls of hawks can be a helpful way to identify them. However, it is important to note that not all hawks are vocal, and some species are more vocal than others.
Some calls can be difficult to distinguish between species. Therefore, it is always best to use a combination of visual and auditory cues to identify hawks.
Nesting and Reproduction
Cooper’s hawks build their nests in tall trees, typically conifers. The nests are made of sticks, bark, and other debris. Cooper’s hawks lay 3-5 eggs per clutch, and the incubation period is about 35 days.
Red-tailed hawks also build their nests in tall trees, but they are not as picky about the type of tree as Cooper’s hawks. They will also nest on cliffs and ledges. Red-tailed hawks lay 2-4 eggs per clutch, and the incubation period is about 28 days.
Cooper’s hawks are more secretive than red-tailed hawks and are less likely to be seen near their nests. They are also more likely to abandon their nests if they are disturbed. Red-tailed hawks, on the other hand, are more tolerant of human activity and will often nest in areas close to human habitation.
Interactions with Humans
Urban adaptations and interactions of Cooper’s hawk
Cooper’s hawks have adapted well to suburban and urban environments. They are attracted to the abundance of small birds in these areas, and they have learned to navigate the challenges of city life. Cooper’s hawks are often seen perching on rooftops and power lines, and they will sometimes chase birds into backyards and gardens.
While Cooper’s hawks can be a nuisance to some people, they are an important part of the urban ecosystem.
They help to control populations of small birds, which can damage gardens and spread diseases. Cooper’s hawks are also a source of enjoyment for many people, who appreciate their beauty and agility.
Red-tailed hawk’s presence in various landscapes
Red-tailed hawks are found in a wide variety of habitats, including open fields, mountains, deserts, and urban areas. They are one of the most common hawks in North America, and they can be seen in almost every state and province.
Red-tailed hawks are opportunistic feeders and will eat a variety of prey, including small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. They are an important part of the ecosystem in many areas, and they help to control populations of rodents and other pests.
Human perspectives and conservation efforts
Humans have a long and complex relationship with hawks. In some cultures, hawks are seen as symbols of power and intelligence, while in others they are seen as pests or predators.
In the past, hawks were often persecuted by humans, who hunted them for their feathers or because they were seen as a threat to livestock or poultry. However, attitudes towards hawks have changed in recent years, and they are now generally protected by law.
Conservation efforts for hawks are focused on protecting their habitat and reducing human-caused mortality. This includes protecting nesting sites, reducing the use of pesticides, and educating the public about the importance of hawks.
To sum it up, knowing the differences between Cooper’s hawk and red-tailed hawk is important for bird watchers. Remembering their unique features and behaviors helps us appreciate these amazing birds. Let’s all work to protect and enjoy them in their natural homes for the future.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it called Cooper’s hawk?
Charles Bonaparte named the Cooper’s Hawk after William Copper in 1828. Copper William was a famous specimen collector, and he is credited with collecting the specimens of the birds for scientific research.
Are Cooper’s hawks aggressive?
Copper’s hawk is incredibly aggressive, just like any territorial raptor. If they see any other raptors in their territory, they will attack and scare them away.
Hawks are attractive, powerful, and amazing. And just like every raptor, both cooper and red-tailed hawks are incredibly beautiful.
As the Cooper’s hawk vs. red-tailed hawk comparison suggests, these birds differ in size, length, flying pattern, and diet. Despite their differences, they are beautiful to look at peacefully.
I am a writer and blogger who is passionate about birds. I write to inspire and educate others about the beauty and importance of avian species in our ecosystem. I love to watch birds flying and taking their photographs to capture those memories.