Cooper's Hawk vs. Red-Tailed Hawk: How to Tell the Difference (2023)

homeowners candeter falcons humanelyyour property. When I was growing up, my mother used to tell me that if I saw a hawk in front of her, she would give me ten cents. I did my best but I always saw her a split second after her. "Falcon!" she would say, pointing to a telephone wire or a fence post.

As an adult, I still love seeing a hawk while driving down the road. When I see them in my yard I get a little more nervous as that means they are probably keeping an eye on my chickens waiting for an opportunity to swoop down and snag one.

Are you also a falcon watcher? Depending on how long you've been watching hawks and how far away they are when you see them, it can be difficult to tell which species you've seen.

Cooper hawks and red-tailed hawks are two commonly confused species of hawks, so let's see what makes these two types of hawks different and what they have in common.

Identification of a Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk vs. Red-Tailed Hawk: How to Tell the Difference (1)

First of all, Cooper's hawks are smaller than red-tailed hawks. They also have different colorations, different markings, and a different tail shape.

Cooper's hawk-sized details

  • the size of a crow
  • Male Length: 14.6-15.3″ (37-39 cm)
  • Male Weight: 7.8-14.6 oz (220-410 g)
  • Envergadura-Macho: 22,4-35,4″ (62-90 cm)
  • Female Length: 16.5-17.7″ (42-45 cm)
  • Female Weight: 11.6-24.0 oz (330-680 g)
  • Wingspan females: 29.5-35.4″ (75-90 cm)

coloring and appearance

Correspondingall about birds, “Adults are steel blue-grey above with warm reddish stripes underneath and thick dark bands on the tail. Juveniles are brown above and sharp with brown stripes on the upper chest, giving them a somewhat hooded appearance compared to the more diffuse stripes of juvenile kestrels.”

Cooper's Hawk vs. Red-Tailed Hawk: How to Tell the Difference (2)

This differs from a red-tailed hawk, which has a shorter, broader tail than the Cooper's hawk's long, narrow tail. Also, the red-tailed hawk lacks the horizontal reddish bars on its tail. Its feathers are brown and off-white in contrast to the Cooper's Hawk's blue-gray appearance.

(Video) Falconry: Cooper's hawk comparison

Another way to distinguish the two birds with the naked eye is theCoopers Hawkit has many more spots on its chest than a red-tailed hawk.

flight behavior

Cooper's hawks and red-tailed hawks share similar flight behaviors.

If you see a hawk from afar, notice how it can survive for a long time without flapping its wings. Both species can hover in the air and aim at their prey on windy days. They often fly in wide, wide circles across an open field.

They attack their prey by swooping down to the ground and then quickly diving under.


You will often see a red-tailed hawk in the open field. They like to perch on telephone poles, fence posts and tall trees and look out for prey. They sometimes find their way to a backyard feeder or suburban backyard, but Cooper's hawks do so even more frequently. Cooper falcons love deep forests and wooded neighborhoods.

Are Cooper's hawks rare?

There was a time when hawks were an endangered species.

In the 1930s, hawks and other birds of prey were commonregularly hunted for sport. 1990 became theLA Times wroteabout how hawks, eagles and falcons have been endangered by habitat loss. The DDT pesticide was also a major threat to large birds.

However, red-tailed hawks have been removed from the endangered species list and are no longer consideredin danger or threatened!

Cooper's hawks are not uncommon, but they are still a cause for concern. They were first identified as vulnerable in 1974, at the height of the DDT crisis. In 1999, his status was upgraded to threatened. As of 2012 they are a"Species of Very High Concern".This means they still need to be monitored, but their population is not currently declining.

(Video) What's the difference between a Red-Shouldered & Red-Tailed Hawk? Life Science at a Social Distance


Let's look at some of the common questions people have about hawks, including Coopers and Red-tailed.

Hawks are beautiful, but they can also be intimidating due to their size and fierce looks. Many people have doubts about whether or not it is safe to have hawks around. Are you allowed to stop them from visiting your garden? What to do when they are in yoursBird feeder in the backyard? Are they a threat to pets like dogs and cats?

Those are great questions! Fortunately, hawk behavior is fairly predictable and we have a lot of information on how they are likely to behave in different scenarios.

Can a hawk lift a 15 pound cat? What about a small dog?

Horror stories abound: a small dog or cat is standing in the garden going about its business, and suddenly a hawk swoops down and steals it for lunch.

Is this something that really happens? Is a 15 pound dog or cat safe from a hawk's claws? What about a small pet like a teacup chihuahua or a tiny kitten?

First of all, it's important to know thatHawk attacks on pets are very rare. Great news, right?

A hawk only weighs a few pounds and most pets outweigh them. Cooper's Hawks only weigh about a pound, which means there are almost no pets that a Cooper's Hawk can pick up and take with them. It is physically impossible for a hawk to fly with anything heavier than itself. In short, my pups are in no danger of being taken away by a hawk, neither your cat nor your dog.

Hawks eat small prey like snakes,mice,chipmunk, and small birds.

The risks hawks pose to pets

However, there are some risks that hawks pose to pets.

(Video) 2020-01-30 Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon

A hawk can do a lot of damage without capturing its prey. While a hawk is unlikely to attack a cat or dog and typically cannot take it in flight, there are some documented examples of hawks attacking pets on the ground.

If you have backyard chickens or other poultry, you shouldtake action to protect your herdof birds of prey. A big chicken is a much easier target than a dog.

The spruce offers good advicehow to protect your pets from hawks, eagles and owls. They recommend the following:

  • Always supervise your pets outside
  • If possible, use a covered area for pets
  • Provide natural shelter such as shrubs and trees.
  • Train multiple pets at the same time
  • Teach your pets to leave all birds alone
  • Feed your pets indoors instead of outdoors

Is it legal to shoot or wound a Cooper's Hawk or Red-tailed Hawk?

In conversations about protecting pets and poultry from hawks, someone often says, "Well, I would shoot a hawk disturbing my animals!"

As a bird lover, this recommendation always breaks my heart a little! I wouldn't like to birds are injuredjust for doing what they were born to do.

And as someone who knows about itMigratory Bird Protection Act (MBTA), I also know that anyone who proposes this strategy is talking about breaking the law.

You absolutely must not harass, injure, or kill a hawk without special permission from the federal government. These permits are also not given to everyone who wants one!

The MBTA was adopted in 1918 and later expanded and strengthened through the work ofRosalie Wheelbarrow Edge. She was a conservationist who fought to save birds of prey from being killed in unimaginable numbers. If you want to see large numbers of hawks and other birds of prey in the wild, you can still visit themHawk Mountain Sanctuary. Barrow Edge founded Hawk Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains as part of his quest to protect these important species.

Options for deterring hawks

  • Plastic bait for owls or hawks
  • Use noise protection devices such as B. an ultrasonic speaker
  • Place resting spikes at popular landing spots
  • Remove the hawks' food sources.
  • Cut off dead branches where hawks like to perch

Do hawks eat other hawks?

Hawks eat other birds. What about other hawks? Would a Red-tailed Hawk Ever Eat a Cooper's Hawk?

(Video) Red-tailed Hawk and Cooper's Hawk (10/6/19)

A hawk's diet definitely includes birds. They will generally only prey on smaller birds. This includeslittle bird,cardinals,pigeonsand other songbirds.

A hawk is unlikely to attack a larger bird, so you won't see a Chick Hawk that weighs only a pound attacking a Red-tailed Hawk that weighs twice that. However, red-tailed hawks are knownattack and eat Cooper's hawk.

Another species of falcon: red-shouldered falcons

I haven't talked about it muchRed shoulder bussardsin this post, but I want to spend a little time on this interesting species before closing!

Red-shouldered hawks have not recovered from the threatened and endangered lists, as have red-tailed and Cooper's hawks.

Their numbers are increasing and they are not currently globally identified as an endangered species. However, their disappearance from some regions, particularly the Northeast, has marked them as suchfrom states like New Jerseywithin the state at risk of extinction.

They are smaller than red-tailed hawks but larger than Cooper's hawks. I love how colorful they are with dark and white wings that have a checkered pattern on them. Its chest is lined with warm red bars and its black tail has several narrow white bands.

Tips for spotting hawks

If you want to see more hawks in your everyday life, you can! You can always train yourself to be aware of the roadside while driving, especially when driving on a highway or country road surrounded by fields.Hawks are territorial., so you may find that they hang out in the same areas every day.

I can always be confident that I will see a hawk perched on a certain fence post about a mile before the train tracks I cross on my journey!

One last trick to spotting more hawks is investing in a good spotting scope! Abird binocularsThis allows you to see hawks that are much further away. Binoculars are a good backup plan, but a scope with a tripod will give you stability and the ability to take great pictures!

(Video) Comparing size, weight, talons of Red Shouldered & Red-Tail Hawks-Life Science at a Social Distance


1. How to Identify a Red-tailed Hawk - Raptor Identification
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4. Identifying Raptors
5. Red-Shouldered Hawk or Red-Tailed Hawk
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6. Juvenile Broad-winged Hawk vs Red-shouldered Hawk vs Red-tailed Hawk - Raptor Identification
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