Basic Information
Common Name: Cooper's Hawk
Scientific Name: Accipiter cooperii
Species Code:
Management Category: VG (species not specifically managed for, but may benefit from vegetation management for VF species)
Occurrence Map
Table of Occurrences

Current Distribution Rangewide

Breeding range from the contiguous U.S., Canada south of the boreal forest, and north west Mexico to north central [1]. Winters primarily from southern Canada south through the U.S., Central America, and Caribbean islands.

Known Populations in San Diego County

Widespread throughout the county especially over the coastal slope [2]. Populations become scarce in the Anza-Borrego Desert region.

List Status

CDFW- Watch list [3].

Habitat Affinities

Generally found in dense stands of live oak, riparian deciduous, or other forest habitats near water [4]. Tolerant of human disturbance and will occupy urban landscapes, possibly due to higher numbers of favored bird prey that are supported in developed areas.

Taxonomy and Genetics

There are no recognized subspecies [5].

Seasonal Activity

Yearlong, diurnal activity [6]. Yearlong resident of California. Hawks from northern areas will migrate to California. Hawks will relocate downslope and south from areas of heavy snow in autumn and return in spring.

Life History/Reproduction

Nest in either deciduous or coniferous trees, usually 25-50 feet above ground, but beneath the canopy [2]. Breeding takes place late March through August; peak activity May through July. Single-brooded; average clutch size is 3-5. Female incubates 35-65 days [7]. Young are altricial; yearly fledgling success is about 2 young per pair [8].

Diet and Foraging

Eats mostly live animals, typically sub-adult birds and mammals, especially American robin, jays, northern flicker, European starling, doves, and chipmunks [9, 10].


Since the banning of DDT, the species has thrived and recovered remarkably well [2]. Urbanization posed as a threat, however the Cooper’s hawk has adapted nicely to urban environments mainly due to society’s attitude toward birds of prey and maturation of urban trees over many square miles of formerly treeless scrub. Presently, the main threat to Cooper’s hawk is collisions with motorized vehicles [2].

Literature Sources

[1] Kaufman, Kenneth. Lives of North American birds. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.

[2] Unitt, P. 1984b. The birds of San Diego County. San Diego Society of Natural History Museum no. 13:1-276.

[3] California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Natural Diversity Database. July 2017. Special Animals List. Periodic publication. 51 pp.

[4] Beebe, F. L. 1974a. Field studies of the Falconiformes of British Columbia: vultures, hawks, falcons, eagles. Victoria: Occas. Pap. Brit. Columbia Prov. Mus. No. 17.

[5] Whaley, W. H. and C. M. White. 1994. Trends in geographic variation of Cooper's hawk and northern goshawk in North America: a multivariate analysis. Proc. West. Found. Vertebr. Zool. no. 5:161-209.

[6] Zeiner, D.C., W.F.Laudenslayer, Jr., K.E. Mayer, and M. White, eds. 1988-1990. California's Wildlife. Vol. I-III. California Depart. of Fish and Game, Sacramento, California.

[7] Brown, L., and D. Amadon. 1968. Eagles, hawks and falcons of the world. 2 Vols. Country Life Books, London. 945pp.

[8] Craighead, J. J., and F. C. Craighead, Jr. 1956. Hawks, owls and wildlife. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA. 443pp.

[9] Bielefeldt, J., R. N. Rosenfield and J. M. Papp. 1992. Unfounded assumptions about diet of the Cooper's hawk. Condor no. 94:427-436.

[10] Estes, W. A. and R. W. Mannan. 2003. Feeding behavior of Cooper's Hawks at urban and rural nests in southeastern Arizona. Condor no. 105:107-116.