Field identification tips: Accipiters such as this Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) are forest birds whose short powerful wings and long rudder-like tail provide maneuverability in dense brush where it preys on smaller birds. This species can be easily confused with the smaller but otherwise very similar Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus). Size is not a reliable way to identify this bird in the field since a small male A. cooperii can be smaller than a large female A. striatus. Look for a tubular body shape (vs. A. striatus's bulkier shoulder look), a 'fierce' gaze, graduated-length tailfeathers and a squared-off head shape. When trying to identify this bird its best not to rely on a single field mark and sometimes it simply cannot be separated from A. straitus and is best identified as Accipiter sp.
Typical range: This bird can be found in most of the Lower 48 states and Mexico, and the southern portions of many Canadian provinces.
Habitat: A. cooperii's short powerful wings and long tail rudder give it excellent maneuverability in its forest home, including urban forests. This species will move to the southern part of its range during winter; overhead the graduated-length tail feathers can be seen as a fanned tail with a white tip and the head projects ahead of the leading edge of the wing.