This weekend we found the Cooper's Hawks making a nest in the neighborhood, so that earns them a spot on this week's Feathursday blog. They nested here in 2015 and 2016, then skipped 2017, probably because Crows built a nest in that area. They were back in 2018, and it's good to see the hawks back again now in 2019.

The Cooper's Hawk is a marvelous predator, one I never tire of watching. It's a woodland hunter, so you'll seldom see it soaring high in the sky, like Red-tailed Hawks. It prefers to be in the thick of things, where its relatively short wings and long tail offer maximum maneuverability when chasing small birds through dense brush. I've never seen one make a kill, but I have seen them immediately after a kill, feasting on Woodcock, Flickers, Downy Woodpeckers--a wide variety of prey, almost always birds.


And watching a family of Cooper's Hawks through the nesting cycle, I learned that their prey plays an important role in their mating ritual as well. It turns out that the way to the heart of the female Cooper's Hawk is through her stomach. The male brings her a food offering, as a prelude to copulation. In the attached photo, you can see the female's dinner at her feet. (Obviously, the male didn't give her time to finish.)


They build a rough nest of large sticks, high in the upper canopy of large deciduous trees. The nests that I've watched had three chicks each, and as far as I can tell, they all grew to maturity. 

Having these marvelous birds of prey establish their home right here in our neighborhood has allowed us to witness nature's drama unfold daily, sometimes with a touch of humor. One spring day I watched the female as she sat in the tree overlooking the tennis courts. Her gaze followed the ball back and forth, as if she were debating whether to make a dive for it or not. Several summers ago, I saw a young fledgling make a dive for a ball that someone had thrown for her dog. It missed the ball, but scared the lady and the dog. Could be a good way to get folks to leash their dogs! ;)

Dan's Feathursday Feature is a weekly contribution to the COS blog featuring the thoughts, insights and pictures of Chicago birder, Dan Lory on birds of the Chicago region.