When it comes to birds of prey, the red shouldered hawk and coopers hawk are two of the most majestic and awe-inspiring species in North America. While they may look similar at first glance, these raptors have unique traits that set them apart. Let’s explore the differences and similarities between these two hawks.

From their size and appearance to their habitat and behavior, we’ll cover all the important details you need to know to identify these birds in the wild. Whether you’re a bird watcher, nature enthusiast, or simply curious about these magnificent creatures, read on to discover more about the red shouldered hawk and coopers hawk.

Key Takeaways:

  • The red shouldered hawk and coopers hawk are fascinating birds of prey in North America.
  • While they share some similarities, they have distinct differences in size, appearance, habitat, behavior, and diet.
  • Understanding these differences can help you identify these hawks in the wild and appreciate their unique traits.

Size and Appearance

The red shouldered hawk and coopers hawk share many similarities in size and appearance, but there are also distinct differences that set them apart.

Category Red Shouldered Hawk Coopers Hawk
Body Length 17-24 inches 14-20 inches
Wingspan 3.5 feet 2.5-3 feet
Plumage Reddish-brown upperparts, barred underparts Blue-gray upperparts, barred underparts

The red shouldered hawk is slightly larger than the coopers hawk with a longer wingspan. Its reddish-brown plumage is distinctive, while the coopers hawk has blue-gray feathers.

Habitat and Range

The red shouldered hawk and coopers hawk have slightly different habitat preferences and ranges in North America.

Red Shouldered Hawk Coopers Hawk
Habitat Found in deciduous and mixed forests as well as wooded suburbs and parks with water sources. Found in open woods, forest edges, and riparian areas. Also commonly seen in urban areas and parks.
Range Found throughout eastern North America, from southern Canada to Florida and as far west as Texas. Found throughout North America, from southern Canada to northern Mexico and as far west as the Pacific coast.

The red shouldered hawk is more closely associated with dense forested areas, while the coopers hawk is adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats, including urban areas. However, both hawks are found in wooded areas and have been known to nest in suburban and urban environments.

The red shouldered hawk’s range is primarily focused in the eastern part of North America, while the coopers hawk is found throughout the continent. The coopers hawk has also been known to expand its range into South America during the winter months.

Behavior and Diet

Both the red shouldered hawk and coopers hawk are known for their impressive hunting skills and specialized diets. They are opportunistic hunters that will prey on a range of small to medium-sized animals, including birds, reptiles, mammals, and insects.

The red shouldered hawk prefers to forage in the mid to lower levels of the forest, often sitting in an elevated perch to scan the surroundings for prey. It is known to exhibit a “still-hunting” technique, where it waits patiently for prey to move before swooping down to attack. The coopers hawk, on the other hand, has a more versatile hunting style, often chasing its prey through trees and shrubs.

When it comes to their diets, the red shouldered hawk primarily feeds on small mammals, such as mice, voles, and squirrels, as well as reptiles, amphibians, and insects. The coopers hawk, on the other hand, has a penchant for feeding on birds, particularly doves, pigeons, and quails, as well as small mammals and reptiles.

Red Shouldered Hawk Nesting Habits

The red shouldered hawk is known for its long-term pair bonding and its elaborate nesting rituals. It typically builds a sturdy nest made of sticks and twigs, often situated in the fork of a tree, and both parents will take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the young. The young hawks will remain in the nest for up to 6 weeks before fledging.

Mating and Nesting Habits of the Coopers Hawk

The coopers hawk also exhibits monogamous pair bonding and builds a similar nest to that of the red shouldered hawk. However, it is known for its aggressive territorial behavior during the breeding season, often defending its nest site against other birds and even humans. The young coopers hawks will stay in the nest for up to 5 weeks before fledging.

Identification and Conclusion

Identifying a red shouldered hawk from a coopers hawk can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. By paying attention to their distinct physical features and behavioral traits, you can easily distinguish one from the other.

Physical Characteristics

The red shouldered hawk has a reddish-brown color on its back, while the coopers hawk has a blue-gray color. The red shouldered hawk’s tail is banded, whereas the coopers hawk has a dark-tipped tail. In terms of size, the red shouldered hawk is smaller than the coopers hawk and has a shorter wingspan.

Behavioral Traits

The red shouldered hawk often perches on a branch or tree for long periods, scanning the area for prey, while the coopers hawk often flies low and fast through the forest in pursuit of prey. The red shouldered hawk’s call is a distinctive “kee-aah,” while the coopers hawk’s call is a quick “kak-kak-kak.”

Conclusion

In conclusion, both the red shouldered hawk and coopers hawk are unique and fascinating birds of prey. While they share similarities in their hunting techniques and habitat preferences, they differ in their physical characteristics and behaviors. Understanding these differences is essential in appreciating the diversity of the natural world and the intricate role that each species plays in the ecosystem.

FAQ

Q: What are the key differences between the red shouldered hawk and the coopers hawk?

A: The red shouldered hawk and coopers hawk differ in size, habitat, and behavior. The red shouldered hawk is smaller and prefers forested habitats, while the coopers hawk is larger and often found in urban areas. Additionally, their hunting styles and preferred prey differ.

Q: What do red shouldered hawks and coopers hawks eat?

A: Red shouldered hawks primarily feed on small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, while coopers hawks prefer to eat birds. Both hawks are skilled hunters and use their sharp talons to catch their prey.

Q: How can I identify a red shouldered hawk and a coopers hawk?

A: Red shouldered hawks have distinctive reddish-brown shoulders, barred chests, and broad wings. Coopers hawks have a bluish-gray back, rounded tail, and narrow wings. Paying attention to these physical characteristics can help in identifying the two hawks.

Q: Where can I find red shouldered hawks and coopers hawks?

A: Red shouldered hawks are commonly found in wooded areas and forests across North America, while coopers hawks are more adaptable and can be seen in urban and suburban environments as well. Their specific range may vary depending on the region.

Q: Are red shouldered hawks and coopers hawks endangered?

A: While neither species is currently considered endangered, habitat loss and human activity can impact their populations. Efforts to conserve and protect their habitats are crucial in ensuring their survival.

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