Nature Photography – Michigan Cooper’s Hawk

One Early Morning in one of the Michigan Metro Parks…

I went on my traditional weekend walk in the park several weeks ago. There appeared to be an unusual amount of predatory Cooper’s Hawk activity this Michigan fall season. This particular morning the air was crisp with a stillness that created a relaxing silence. There were many small birds darting about off in the distance as well as near my position. The low muffled sounds of leaves occasionally blown about on the ground with a few dis-colored ones falling, circling in an unpredictable pattern drifting to the ground.

Cooper's Hawk - Michigan Birds

Cooper’s Hawk – Michigan Birds

Darting about, there were, blue jays, wood peckers, Chickadees, and Nuthatches, sparrows-all kinds, red cardinals and grey slated juncos… the forest was teaming with bird activity and profusion. There was also a large Dule of Morning Doves frantically moving about on the ground in search of food. Life is easy for these birds and all is safe and worry free in the forest, or is it?

Cooper’s Hawk in Michigan
Before I could react the doves suddenly burst into flight, in an instant they were all air-born implementing full evasive escape maneuvers. All of the others birds followed suit; within a fracture of a second the quite, peaceful serenity had been disrupted.

A large shape of a bird in flight was bulleting across the wetland heading straight for the panicking flock of different specie of birds. It was the infamous Cooper’s Hawk, this predatory stealth attack was achieved without the Cooper flapping its wings. The hawk’s sneak, rapid approach had startled the landscape of serenity.

He quickly maneuver in and out, swerving and curving around shrubs and trees with blinding agility and speed. As fast as the Cooper’s Hawk arrived he disappeared.

Cooper's Hawk dive, glide, strike

Cooper’s Hawk dive, glide, strike

The scenery now still and barren of activity. After a few moments of searching, I saw him sitting motionless like a statue on top of a small protruding branch sticking about two feet from the ground. He had not caught any prey, by design? perhaps this was just a practice drill of which I have witnessed the Cooper Hawk engaged on other occasions.

Michigan Cooper’s Hawk
Flight of the Michigan Cooper’s Hawk 2012
Cooper’s – Arobatic Bird in Flight

I wondered how the predatory Michigan’s Cooper Hawk glided such a long near linear angle and distance without flapping his wings and arrive at its destination target with such speed and force; this distance traveled had to be at least three hundred feet and the hawk did not start from atop a hundred foot tall tree.

Coopers Hawk - Nature Photography

Coopers Hawk – Nature Photography

After a few moments, the Cooper Hawk spun and darted to the right, wings fully spread (just enough to not collide with tight enclosed shrubbery; but expanded enough to speed out into the open, only about one feet above ground with a quick zig and zag he was gone again.)

Cooper's Hawk Michigan Bird

Cooper’s Hawk Michigan Bird

Instantly I began searching the sky and surrounding area, I spotted the Cooper’s Hawk rising from an obscure camouflaged back drop, onto the tip of a tree branch. It now perched, looking about, in meditations of lessons learned about it’s potential prey it had just intimidated. But this is a restless bird, only after a couple of minutes (unlike a Redtailed Hawk that will sit is one spot for hours) the Copper’s Hawk makes another unpredictable left-spin-dive split second dive off the branch and downward toward the ground.

Coopers Hawk inflight 180 Michigan Birds - Photo by Ike Austin

Coopers Hawk inflight 180 Michigan Birds – Photo by Ike Austin

This time when the backdrop of tree branches camouflaged his plumage, he went totally stealth and I could not keep up with his wing flaps, curves, spins, dives… seconds later, where he is now… I could not find.

Cooper's Hawk Michigan

Cooper’s Hawk Michigan Birds


Cooper's Hawk In Flight

Cooper’s Hawk In Flight Michigan Bird

Note the more rounded tail in this photo, this is one sure indicator that this is a Cooper’s Hawk vs a Shark Shinned Hawk that has a more square tail as seen in some of the photos on this page. Can you spot the difference?


Cooper's Hawk Michigan Nature Photography

Cooper’s Hawk Michigan Nature Photography

The Michigan Cooper’s Hawk is one of the most adverse predators in the Accipiter family. These birds glide through forest trees and grasslands with the ability to often track and snatch prey in mid flight.  Michigan birds and nature photography are capturing wild life in everyone’s backyard.


About the Cooper’s Hawk
Nature Photography – Michigan Bird Identification
Photo Taken: Lake Erie MetroPark
Group: Hawks and Eagles

Name: Cooper’s Hawk
Accipiter Cooperii

Appearance:  The Michigan Cooper’s Hawk is a long 3′ to 4′ wingspan, dark brown  plumage on it’s back along the scapular and mantle areas. skinny legs, and long small talons, small beak. typical yellow ring cere found on most hawks; but with a rounded tail or primary tip projection and a stronger contrast between the head cap and crown (it is this rounded tail feather that mostly distinguished the Cooper from the Shark Shinned Hawk.)

Adult: Color is dark brown with spotted front of orange and white plummage.

Juvenile: More tan-ish brown in color.

Flight Characteristics:  Quick flapping wings in flight and typically extended glide attributed with most raptors. The Cooper will fly from tree to tree over a large area until it spots an appropriate target to hunt

Habitat:  The Michigan Cooper’s Hawk prefers open grasslands, lakes and wetlands.

Nesting: Cooper’s will construct nests made of branches and twigs of various sizes. They can be spotted high in the tops of trees located about 25-60 feet above the ground. Incubates 3-5 bluish eggs for appx 36 days. Younglings go in flight in about 50 days from day of birth.

Mating Habits: The Michigan Cooper do not mate for life as the Osprey does, Cooper’s will raise one brood per season.
Off Spring: (Juvenile) as with most larger birds.

Feeding: Songbirds, doves, and small rodents.

Call: Series of low elongated whine like sounds.
About the Photography

About the Photography

nature photography - michigan
Nature Photography – Michigan by Ike Austin

Nature Photography by Ike Austin – Birds of Michigan Series
Photography that is Therapy for the Soul 

Michigan Bird by Ike Austin
Michigan Bird photo by Ike Austin

National Geographic
Editors’ favorite submissions to the 2011 photo contest


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ThirdSon and the River’s Sky


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