Knowing that I’m a bird photographer, and how much I love to photograph birds of prey, a friend called me recently to tell me a story of a close encounter with a hawk of some kind in her front yard. She said this hawk swooped down to ground level, flew right at her, and then swooped away just before reaching her. She sent me a photograph of said hawk via email that she took with her point and shoot camera, and it appeared to be a Coopers Hawk. In the video below, I misidentified these birds as Sharp Shinned Hawks (Sharpies). Thanks to Berni and Vicky for helping me to properly identify them.
The next day I went to my friends house to photograph this hawk. When I arrived, I learned that there are actually 2 hawks, and that they are occupying a nest in the tree across the street. I spent about an hour photographing these hawks that are sometimes known as Coops. Neighbors came out to talk to me when they saw my big fancy camera, and I learned that these Coops stole the nest they occupy from a couple of squirrels. Those squirrels met an untimely end thanks to these Coops according to 2 of the neighbors. I also photographed them the next day before work in the early morning sun (the golden hours). I have lots of images that I hope you’ll enjoy.
These birds are incredibly comfortable around people. I’ve seen them swoop between children playing on the sidewalk, they swooped near my friend in front of her house, and they’ve flown around me as I try to track them through my viewfinder. I’ve photographed them from as near as 8 feet above me in a tree.
I’ve watched them eat their prey from a tree branch, gather nest material, posture themselves as a mating couple would, and call to each other with their sharp squeek of a call. The most amazing thing I saw was when I was taking video of one of them with my own point and shoot, and the second Coop suddenly appeared in the frame, and proceeded to mate with the first Coop!
Did you know that when a Coopers Hawk takes off to fly, it doesn’t open it’s wings? It closes it’s wings, and dives towards the ground like a bomb, then opens it’s wings just before it reaches the ground and soars away. That’s not something you learn in a book, and it’s been amazing to watch these birds long enough to learn that.
Here is that video I mentioned, and the link to my gallery of images: