A Juvenile Coopers Hawk stakes out my Toronto backyard

A Juvenile Coopers Hawk stakes out my Toronto backyard

juvenile coopers hawk on arbour - toronto - ontario

Bob and I enjoy birdwatching through our patio door as we take our meals every day, but near the beginning of this past December, as we finished up our lunch, all the songbirds took flight in a rushed panic.  Next thing we knew, this Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) assumed a stakeout from on top of my garden arbour.

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I am very protective of the regular songbirds that visit my feeding stations, but as none of them seemed to be in immediate danger, I just enjoyed observing this beautiful bird of prey in full acceptance of the fact that it has to eat, too.  Being early winter, the white tip on the Hawk’s tail was still very evident, which would not be the case by springtime since the tip is worn away over the course of the winter.

juvenile coopers hawk on fence - toronto - ontario 2

This Cooper’s Hawk was obviously very hungry because it stayed in my backyard for at least 20-30 minutes.  At one point, it hid out in the dense tangle of apple tree branches where a brave Black-capped Chickadee dared to perch within the Hawk’s sight.  The Chickadee was of no interest to the Cooper’s Hawk given that it would usually invest its efforts in a larger catch.  Eventually, the Hawk moved to the fence along the west side of my backyard.  You can see that it was a windy day by the way its feathers are ruffled.

juvenile coopers hawk on fence - toronto - ontario

I was kept busy running from the kitchen window to the patio door when the Hawk was on the move again to the chain link fence on the east side of my property.  I had an excellent view of its long, rounded tail and took note of the contrasting dark bands across its dorsal surface.  A few songbirds had taken refuge in the thick branches of nearby Forsythia bushes, and the Cooper’s Hawk had taken notice.

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In the blink of an eye, the Hawk doubled back into my birch tree, and strategically placed itself so as to have an overview of the bare Forsythia branches.  We had seen another Cooper’s Hawk snatch a cardinal from the recesses of the snarly Forsythia twigs last winter, so I wondered just how safe the Sparrows would remain under the keen eye of this predatory bird.  The Hawk’s profile accentuated its brown cap and crisp brown streaks on its white breast.

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Three more times, the Cooper’s Hawk patrolled the yard, circulating between the arbour, the west fence and the east perimeter.  At one point, it even departed over the neighbouring rooftops, but within moments returned again on the prowl.  I was grateful for the bright sunshine that day since it nicely set off the intricate pattern of white spots on the brown upper-wing coverts, and made it possible to discern the yellow eyes, seen only in the juveniles.

juvenile coopers hawk sitting in tree - toronto - ontario

On its next approach to the Forsythia bushes, the Hawk used a more clandestine approach through the back side of the Birch Tree,

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quietly moved into a more prominent position,

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studied its intended target a few feet below,

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then prepared for the attack.

juvenile coopers hawk in flight - toronto - ontario

I could see the steely determination in its focused eyes, feel the tension of the Sparrows hunkered low in the shrubs’ branches,

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and prepared myself for the worst as the Hawk moved in for the kill.

juvenile coopers hawk on bush - toronto - ontario

Unfortunately for the Cooper’s Hawk, the Sparrows were too deeply entrenched in the thick mass of branches, so it resorted to perching amid the stubby, pruned stems atop one Forsythia bush, perhaps contemplating its next move.

juvenile coopers hawk sitting on bird feeder - toronto - ontario

The Sparrows were frozen in fear, so the Cooper’s Hawk decided that the top of the bird feeder would make a good place from which to exercise its excellent depth perception.  On this occasion, no unwary Mourning Dove or Blue Jay afforded a meal.  In fact, it was a wildly squawking Blue Jay that had first warned all the songbirds away from the feeders.  I have one Blue Jay that routinely lands near my kitchen window and begs for peanuts.  I had just tossed a few onto the deck before the Hawk landed in my backyard, and though the Blue Jay dared to swoop down and nab one, it left the others up for grabs in favour of seeking refuge in the tall cedar hedge at the back of my property.

juvenile coopers hawk takes flight - toronto - ontario

I waited patiently to capture the Cooper’s Hawk in flight and had duly changed the setting on my camera.  I have never been successful with action shots but was quite pleased with the result.  The persistence of the Hawk was not rewarded on this visit to my property, and it finally glided silently between the nearby houses and out of sight.  It was the best half hour I’d spent in a long time.

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3 comments

  • Interesting – the bird that’s been in our yard is pert near identical! I wonder if they are related? I don’t know how common Cooper’s are in the Toronto area – will confer with more knowledgeable ‘Birder’ friends. Perhaps north Scarborough and mid-Danforth aren’t too far apart in accipiter terms.
    Thanks for the prompt reply
    Cheers1

  • Looks like same Cooper’s that has been in our yard on many occasions since before Christmas – most of the day today in fact! Most definitely has quieted down activity at our feeders,(and had at least a couple successful kills) but what a fine bird to watch! We are south of the Danforth on Monarch Park Avenue. Are you in this part of town? Wondering what the range is… You got some great shots – congratulations!
    CHEERS! Jennifer aka ‘Lucky’ Hale
    ps my partner’s last name is Cooper…we think it might be his Dad, Jack, back for a visit

    • Hi Jennifer. I’m not sure what the size of a Cooper’s territory is, but I rather doubt that you would be seeing the same one as visits our backyard. We are in north Scarborough, which is a fair distance from you, and our Cooper’s was on site this morning and made a successful kill. The first clue as to its presence was a Downy Woodpecker playing statue for the longest time on our peanut feeder before it felt confident enough to fly to safety. The Cooper’s left our feeding stations quite deserted for most of the morning. Thanks for checking out our blog posting. I’m glad you liked our photos.