Cooper’s Hawk Chicks!

There had been no activity for three weeks each time I stopped at the police sub-station at Osuna and Wyoming to check for any signs of Cooper’s Hawk nestlings. On May 5, I had seen activity that looked like an adult feeding a chick, while the male kept watch nearby. But since then – nothing. The well-constructed and deep nest, evidently used for a number of years, hid the female so well, that I didn’t even see her tail peeking over the edge. The male seemed always to be out hunting. The leaves on the sycamore tree had filled out, so it was difficult to get a good view.

On May 26, I made my ritual route around the tree. I started on the east side, and carefully worked my way around, stopping to peer at the nest through my binoculars at every point where a break in the leaves permitted a view.

A woman came out of the building and saw me peering into the trees.

“What are you looking at?” she asked.

“A hawk’s nest,” I replied. “Would you like to take a look?” I handed her my binoculars and she was amazed that a hawk’s nest was located in the city, in a well-trafficked area.

I made my way to the western side of the nest. When I looked up, a sizable chick was peering over the edge of the nest. The Mom was sitting protectively behind it, but didn’t seem perturbed by my staring. Unfortunately, the woman had gotten in her car and driven off by then.

chick about 4 days old

The next day I stopped by Academy Hills Park, where the other nest I have been watching is located. Sara, a birding friend was with me. We were delighted to see a tiny white fluff ball.

“It looks like a little Martian,” Sara commented. Its eyes appeared large for the size of its head.

When I sent the photo to Kristin, whose nest watch program I am participating, she told me that it looked about 4 days old.

This nest, in contrast to the one at the other site, is small and flimsy. I always could see the mother’s tail while she was incubating.

On June 6, I returned to the sub-station and found the chick alone in the nest. It appeared as if it had grown its flight feathers and could fledge at any time. Since it had been 30 days since I had seen evidence of chick(s) in the nest, it would be about right. Cooper’s Hawks fledge between 27 and 34 days after hatching.

Clearly, there was only one chick. I kept wondering what happened to the other eggs.

When I visited Academy Hills on June 8, I was ecstatic to find three chicks! Since they hatch synchronously, the other two chicks must have been sitting where I could not see them the prior week. They were still white and fluffy.

They were growing and taking up more room than the nest comfortably allowed. An adventurous one ventured out of the nest and was perched on a large limb next to the nest. Was this the curious one that was looking out at me on June 6?

I visited the sub-station again on June 9, and there was no sign of the chick. It must have fledged.

“It is still dependent on its parents and returning to the nest,” Kristen had advised.

Sure enough, on June 13, and again on June 19, it was back in the nest when I stopped by.

fledgling out on branch

By June 14, all three chicks at Academy Hills sported their flight feathers, were each perched out on one of the limbs. They moved around, testing out their wings, but not taking flight. I would just get one focused through my camera lens, when it changed position!

It has been a fascinating experience to watch the nesting process – from nest-building at Academy Hills to fully fledged juveniles.

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8 thoughts on “Cooper’s Hawk Chicks!

  1. I live about 20 miles south of Philadelphia in a very suburban neighborhood, but in an area with some wooded area adjacent. Noticed the nest approx 50′ up last winter, very early this spring there was hawk activity and about 4 weeks ago 4 of the offspring made their way out of the next. I’m certain from what I’ve read that these are Coopers Hawks. We had a hammock below and slightly to the side of the nest, and could lay there and look up to watch them testing their wings and boundaries, now they’re still hanging around my yard, chasing each other, doing figure 8′s in the yard, but I haven’t seen another single bird in the area, nor bat, nor squirrel, nor chipmunk, in the past few weeks – one exception: crows. It’s been interesting, but looking forward to them migrating in the fall (I hope!) so I can feed the other birds again, since I don’t want to lure them into the hunting grounds. Janet

  2. How fun to be able to lay in a hammock and watch the hawk activity! I don’t my feeder out in the summer – not because of raptors – but because there is plenty of food for them. The song birds that I see most often brought to the nest of the hawks I watch are doves and House Sparrows – both prolific breeders, so I don’t get upset.

  3. Judy, Thank you for implicitly answering the question I asked Google: “When do Cooper’s Hawks have chicks?” I regularly see a Cooper’s Hawk hunting my bird feeders and have heard their call, but today I walked out the back door and heard an unfamiliar, but distinctive squeal right above my head. Saw a hawk silhouette fly away but couldn’t ID it. Went to allaboutbirds.org and played the various recordings of the Cooper’s hawk, and when I played the “begging chicks” track–that was the one! But I needed more convincing. Is it the right time of year for Cooper’s chicks? And more specifically, for Cooper’s chicks to be flying on their own? That info was not in my field guide, so I asked Google. Well today is June 15, 2011, exactly a year after you noticed flight feathers on your chicks. So thanks to you, I’m confident that I had a just-fledged Cooper’s chick visit me today in North Texas.

    • How exciting to have a juvenile visit your yard. When they are learning to hunt, they get very excited and find it almost impossible to stay quiet, which of course, alerts their potential prey. They are fun to watch at this time.

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