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Animal Educators Blog

Animal Educators Blog

No such thing as a Chicken Hawk

Posted on February 24, 2020 at 12:45 PM

Have you ever heard of a Chicken-Hawk? If you live in the south, you probably have heard this reference before.

Rest assured there is actually no such thing as a chicken hawk. The Coopers Hawk or “Chicken Hawk” is probably the raptor which gave the Red-tail such a bad reputation, they will take chickens and other small birds whenever they have the opportunity. You see, a Coopers Hawk is an accipiter, these are bird-eating raptors and are quite fast. There are only 2 commonly seen Accipiter’s in the Carolinas, the Coopers Hawk and the Sharp-shinned Hawk. They have long tails and short, rounded wings, making it easier to maneuver in and out of trees in the woods while on the chase for prey. The Coopers Hawk’s outer tail feathers are shorter, giving them a nice rounded tail appearance.

The adult Coopers Hawks may have red or orange eyes, the juveniles (less than 1 year old) may have yellow eyes. These eyes will lock-on to their prey, which can get them into trouble if they aren’t careful. They can easily get trapped inside buildings and not be able to find their way out without help. The Coopers Hawk may have a rusty red color on the chest and steely blue/gray on the wings.

If you have a bird feeder in your back yard, beware you may see a Coopers Hawk nearby. A Cooper's Hawk captures a bird with its feet and kills it by repeated squeezing. Falcons tend to kill their prey by biting it, but Cooper’s Hawks hold their catch away from the body until it dies. They’ve even been known to drown their prey, holding a bird underwater until it stopped moving.

For more information about types of raptors and the differences between them, visit us on your next field trip and meet our Animal Educators!

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