Cooper's Hawk

Sometimes the wildlife watches you.  This morning I hiked the dike at Wiley Slough in the Skagit River delta.  I went to try and catch Cedar Waxwings.  This time of year, they enjoy the ripe Pacific Crabapples that grow along the dike.  The Lesser Snow Geese have also returned to Fir Island.  Some shots of them would also be welcome.  Alas, there were lots of American Robins, but no Cedar Waxwings and no Snow Geese.  I headed back to the parking lot without a single photo.  Then, this small hawk flew right up to me.  He perched on a branch and took a good look as if to check me out.

This is a juvenile Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii).  It is one of the three Accipiters that occur locally.  They come in three sizes, small, medium and large.  The Northern Goshawk (A. gentilis) is the largest of the group.  The Cooper's is the medium sized bird, and the Sharp-shinned Hawk (A. striatus) is the smallest.

Cooper's Hawk in the Skagit River Delta

After getting a couple of photos, I continued on my way along the dike.  The bird flew along with me and perched on the next tree.  This is unusual behavior.  Birds usually flee at the sight of me, especially when I point a camera at them.  This one seemed to enjoy the experience, so I was able to get a couple more photos.

Cooper's Hawks have an interesting hunting technique.  Instead of swooping onto their pray from the air, they use stealth and stalk their quarry through dense brush.  When it gets close enough, it seizes the prey with its feet in a sudden lunge.  It will squeeze it repeatedly to kill it.  Birds are its favorite food, but it will also take small mammals.

When this bird matures, it will exhibit a rich gray back and head, a darker cap, and a white breast with orange bars.  The eyes will be red.

Once again, I failed to get the photos I had sought, but ended up with something just as interesting.  I am certainly not disappointed.  This was another memorable wildlife encounter and the subject seemed to enjoy it as much as I did.

I am submitting this post over at Wild Bird Wednesday.  Check it out.


  1. a great find and wonderful shots of this raptor.

  2. Great post on the Cooper's hawk! Awesome shots.

  3. I have been awaiting our Cedar Waxwings and they have not stopped by yet...maybe I shall look for our resident Coopers Hawk along the way. ;) Beautiful captures here!

  4. That picture of the Coopers Hawk is amazing.

  5. What a wonderful specimen--he looks so regal.

  6. He is young and is more curious than fearful. What amazes me most about Coopers Hawks is the speed at which they can fly through a dense wooded area without touching a thing. They are the ADD birds of the Hawk world ... Wonderful pictures and information, Dave ...

    Andrea @ From The Sol

  7. Fabulous photos! How fortuitous that he landed so close by!

  8. That is kind of funny... maybe he's been around humans who fed him ...

  9. Sweet! I like how you set out for something and came away with something just as wonderful. Great shot as usual. I saw a beautiful cedar waxwing up close in a bush at West Point last summer. Think we surprised each other. No camera though. Hope to make it up your way again this fall, leading any walks? Will check your Twitter feed. :) Happy October!


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