A Birdwatcher’S Guide To Cooper’S Hawks And Red-Tailed Hawks

Welcome to the birdwatching world, where the skies are alive with the awe-inspiring beauty of Cooper’s and Red-Tailed Hawks. These majestic creatures captivate the hearts of birdwatchers with their unique characteristics and behaviors. Get ready to embark on a journey that will open your eyes to the wonders of nature and ignite your passion for these remarkable birds. Let’s know A Birdwatcher’S Guide To Cooper’S Hawks And Red-Tailed Hawks.

Cooper’s Hawks, with their sleek frame and nimble wingspan, are the elusive hunters of urban areas. As you observe them in action, you’ll witness their shy and cunning nature as they swoop down to catch small birds. Hidden in the trees, their nests become the perfect sanctuary for their 2-6 precious eggs.

In contrast, the Red-Tailed Hawks, with their grandeur and commanding presence, prefer the open expanses of the wilderness. Watch in awe as they soar through the skies, effortlessly riding the wind currents. They nest on cliffs and tall structures, their 1-2 eggs perched precariously on the edge.

These birds have distinct preferences when it comes to prey. Cooper’s Hawks, the masters of stealth, feast on small mammals, reptiles, and birds. Meanwhile, bolder and more aggressive, the Red-Tailed Hawks prefer larger prey like rabbits and squirrels and have even been known to raid chicken coops.

With this guide, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of these magnificent birds’ habitat preferences, nesting habits, and prey preferences. So grab your binoculars, embrace your freedom, and embark on a birdwatching adventure that will leave you in awe of the beauty and diversity of our feathered friends.

Key Takeaways

A Birdwatcher'S Guide To Cooper'S Hawks And Red-Tailed Hawks
A Birdwatcher’S Guide To Cooper’S Hawks And Red-Tailed Hawks
  • Coopers Hawks are smaller, with a wingspan of about 18 inches, while Red-Tailed Hawks have an enormous wingspan of up to four feet.
  • Coopers Hawks are more likely to be seen hunting for small birds in urban areas, while Red-Tailed Hawks prefer open areas like fields and grasslands.
  • Coopers Hawks are shy and elusive, while Red-Tailed Hawks can be bold or aggressive if threatened.
  • Coopers Hawks primarily eat small mammals, reptiles, and birds, while Red-Tailed Hawks prefer larger prey like rabbits and squirrels.

Physical Characteristics

You’ll notice that Coopers and Red-Tailed Hawks have distinct physical characteristics that set them apart. These differences are crucial when it comes to their identification.

Coopers Hawks are smaller, with a wingspan of about 18 inches, while Red-Tailed Hawks have a wingspan of 30 inches or more.

Coopers Hawks have a chestnut brown back and tail, whereas Red-Tailed Hawks have a reddish brown tail, gray head, and breast.

Another noticeable difference is their size, with Cooper’s Hawks being about one-third the size of Red-Tailed Hawks.

These physical variations significantly affect their hunting techniques and habitat preferences. Understanding these differences will allow you to confidently identify and appreciate these magnificent birds of prey during your birdwatching adventures.

Habitat and Behavior

Habitat and Behavior
Habitat and Behavior

Explore the diverse habitats and behaviors of these two fascinating birds of prey.

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Cooper’s Hawks and Red-Tailed Hawks have different migratory patterns and hunting techniques. Cooper’s Hawks can be found in urban areas, hunting for small birds. They are shy and elusive, often building nests high up in trees. They primarily eat small mammals, reptiles, and birds.

On the other hand, Red-Tailed Hawks soar in open areas and nest on cliffs or tall structures. They are more opportunistic feeders, preferring larger prey like rabbits and squirrels. They have been known to take chickens from coops if other food sources are scarce.

Understanding these differences in habitat and behavior can enhance your birdwatching experience. Witness the beauty of these majestic creatures as they navigate their unique environments and employ their distinct hunting techniques.

Nesting Habits

Nesting Habits
Nesting Habits

To understand the nesting habits of these birds of prey, observe how they build their nests high up in trees or on cliffs and tall structures. Cooper’s hawks and Red-Tailed hawks have different nesting preferences, with Cooper’s hawks more likely to be found in urban areas.

Here are some key differences in their nesting habits:

  • Coopers Hawks:

    • Build nests high up in trees
    • Lay 2-6 eggs per nest
    • Prefer urban settings for nesting
    • Shy and elusive
  • Red-Tailed Hawks:

    • Nest on cliffs or tall structures
    • Lay 1-2 eggs in a clutch
    • Prefer open areas like fields and grasslands for nesting
    • Can be bold or aggressive if threatened

By observing these nesting habits, you can better understand these magnificent birds and their unique preferences. Whether in urban or open areas, Cooper’s and Red-Tailed hawks have adapted their nesting habits to thrive in their habitats.

Prey Preferences

DreamShaper v5 CooperS Hawks in the nesting 0
Prey Preferences

Discover the fascinating differences in the prey preferences of these two remarkable birds of prey. Regarding hunting habits, Cooper’s Hawks and Red-Tailed Hawks have distinct feeding preferences.

Cooper’s Hawks are smaller and more agile, making them skilled at hunting small mammals, reptiles, and birds. They prefer to remain closer to the ground or trees, precisely pouncing on their prey.

On the other hand, Red-Tailed Hawks are more prominent and prefer to hunt from high above, diving down to grab their prey. They have a taste for larger prey, such as rabbits and squirrels.

While both hawks are skilled hunters, their differing prey preferences showcase their unique hunting techniques. So, when you’re out birdwatching, watch Cooper’s Hawks swooping down on smaller prey and Red-Tailed Hawks soaring high above, on the lookout for larger meals.

Enjoy the freedom of witnessing these magnificent birds in action.


In conclusion, by delving into the physical characteristics, habitat and behavior, nesting habits, and prey preferences of Cooper’s Hawks and Red-Tailed Hawks, birdwatchers like yourself can truly enhance their experiences in the field.

These remarkable birds of prey offer unique and captivating sightings, whether the elusive Cooper’s Hawk hunting in urban areas or the bold and aggressive Red-Tailed Hawk soaring above open landscapes.

So, grab your binoculars, embrace the thrill of the hunt, and get ready to immerse yourself in the fascinating world of these incredible hawks.

Happy birdwatching!

John Barton
As an avid bird enthusiast, I have devoted the past 15 years to caring for and studying these beautiful creatures. I am proud to introduce birdingexplorer.com, my blog where I share my wealth of knowledge and experience in bird care. Having embarked on numerous bird watching expeditions around the globe, I am deeply committed to assisting others in providing the best possible care for their feathered friends. If you have any questions or require assistance, please don't hesitate to contact me at john@birdingexplorer.com. I look forward to hearing from you.