adult male coopers hawk Cooper’s Hawks
                                                           Accipiter cooperii

How to I.D.
a Cooper's Hawk

Field Marks

Comparison to Similar Species

Cooper's vs Sharp-Shinned Hawks

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk

Juvenile Sharp-Shinned Hawk

(Photo Credit: Stephen Fuqua)

Cooper’s vs. Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Adult Cooper's Hawk
Adult Sharp-Shinned Hawk

(Photo Credit: Tom Hoffelder)

Sharp-shinned hawks ("sharpies") and Cooper's hawks are so similar that even the experts sometimes have difficulty correctly identifying them. Even though the Cooper's hawk is larger than a sharpie, both species are so dimorphic in size that a male Cooper's and a female sharpie can weigh about the same! Also, you can't always count on the field marks. Maybe you can't see the tell-tale tail in a photo, or the hawk might perch in such a way that you can't tell whether his tail is rounded or squared-off. However, there are other differences, and here are a few:
Cooper's Hawk Sharp-Shinned Hawk
About the size of a crow

About the size of a blue-jay
Feathers graduated in length, making tail appear rounded off

Feathers equal length, making tail appear square at the tip
Tail Tip
White tip on end of tail feathers

Thin white tip on end of tail feathers
Larger head, squarish if hackles are raised

Round and small in proportion to body
Crown of Adult's Head
Dark crown, like a cap or beret, accentuated by a pale nape

Rounded and like a hood, with no pale nape
Set close to front of head

Set midway between beak and back of head; appear very large and round ("bug-eyed") in small head
Barrell-chested, tubular from top to bottom

Wide "shoulders" and narrow "hips"
Juvenile's Chest
Streaks are well-defined, often ending in tear-drop shapes; streaks become less distinct at the abdomen; there is often a prominent dark streak at the throat

Heavily streaked from neck to thighs, with markings some call "messy" streaks.
Legs and Feet
Tarsus is sturdy

Very thin and frail-looking
Head projects ahead of "wrists;" leading edge of wings straight across while soaring

Head appears small in flight, with "wrists" ahead
Call of adult is lower "kek-kek-kek"

Call of adult is higher "kik-kik-kik"
Favors temperate climate and lower elevation during breeding season

Favors cooler climate and higher elevation during breeding season

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