Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii
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General Comments This Accipiter was apparently a reasonably numerous breeding species in the first half of the 20th Century, even nesting toward the coast. However, for whatever reason (DDT?), Cooper's Hawks went into a steep decline in the 1960's-1980's, especially as a breeder. Thankfully, numbers have bounced back since at least 1990, and this formerly uncommon bird is now seen more often than the smaller Sharp-shinned Hawk during the summer and in much of the remainder of the year. This species is more tolerant of humans and suburban habitats, and birds breed in a variety of forests and woodlots, occasionally in cities and towns. At other seasons, like the Sharp-shinned Hawk, it favors a mix of forests or woodlots interspersed with fields and is not normally found inside deep forests. Unlike the Sharp-shinned, Cooper's frequently perch in the open, such as in a tree in a field or on a fencepost.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S3S4B,S4N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Permanent resident, with migratory movements; increasing. Generally uncommon in migration and as a winter resident, not obviously more numerous in fall migration. Breeds over most of the region but very rare if not casual along and very near the immediate coast; rare in the Tidewater area, and rare to very uncommon over the remainder of the province. Peak counts: a published report of 134 in fall migration along the coast on a single day [Chat 40:47 link] is believed to be a mis-identification; 14, Morehead City CBC, 19 De 2010; 12, Cape Hatteras, 19 Oct 1993.
Piedmont Permanent resident, with some migratory movements; increasing. Uncommon in fall, winter, and spring, and rare to uncommon as a breeder. Nests over the entire province. Peak counts:?
Mountains Permanent resident, with some migratory movements; slightly increasing. Uncommon fall migrant, rare to very uncommon in winter and spring, and generally rare in summer, not breeding at higher elevations (mainly over 4,500 feet). Peak counts:
Finding Tips You simply cannot search for this species; you must be afield frequently, and keep your eyes open to hawks overhead and darting across fields. Unlike the Sharp-shinned, which shuns perching in the open, the Cooper's has a proclivity for perching in the open, at times; they can be seen occasionally on fence posts, in lone trees in fields, and in parks in cities. Of course, they are most often seen darting across a field or in the sky.
Attribution LeGrand[2018-02-02], LeGrand[2018-02-01], LeGrand[2012-05-19]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.
NA Maps
(source NatureServe)

View NatureServe distribution maps for Accipiter cooperii