A Pair of Cooper’s Hawks in Flight

Late this morning, in a sky already a hot, hazy blue, two Cooper’s Hawks flew from one side of our road to the other, well above treetop height. One was noticeably smaller than the other, and this confused me for a moment, before realizing it must be a pair. I know a Cooper’s Hawk female is larger than a male, but I had never before seen a pair together. I wasn’t close enough to see the reddish breast or details of the plumage, but the shape of both hawks was distinctive, with large head, broad wings and long narrow tail with bands of dark and light. The rounded white tip of the tail was visible.

They flew together, in a captivating way quite different from their usual flight. It almost looked like lazy or sensual flying – rather slow, deep wingbeats, followed by a long, easy glide. They made a couple of looping half circles, not flying in a direct line as if headed toward a destination, but just flying around. When gliding, the tails were held long and narrow, the wings outstretched, and they sailed and banked and turned. The smaller bird seemed to follow the larger, almost to mirror its moves, and to stay fairly close behind it. Too soon, they drifted away toward the south, over the treetops and out of sight.

Only a couple of days ago, on Sunday, I had seen a Cooper’s Hawk sitting among the fresh new green leaves of oak trees in a different part of the neighborhood, but not too far away. I had stopped to check out the area where Broad-winged Hawks nested last year – I’m hoping they might return this year, but have not seen or heard one yet. The Cooper’s Hawk flew in and perched in the oaks, facing toward me, with the head turning to show the profile – giving me an unusually close and clear view, a perfect picture. That time I could see very well the shadowy, powder-gray shoulders and head, reddish bars on the breast, fierce eye, hooked bill, and long, rounded, banded tail, all lit by leaf-filtered sunlight. It sat there for several seconds, maybe a minute or two, then turned and flew a short distance away, into another tree where it was hidden.

Leave a Reply