Natural Sightings #619 - Cooper's Hawk.jpg

What appears to be an immature Cooper's Hawk perches on a fence.

Vikki Worrell took this photo in the city of Tehachapi of what appears to be an immature Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) perched on a fence.

Every winter, Tehachapi's population of these fast flying birds greatly increases as Cooper's Hawks from higher elevations and more northerly latitudes move into our area. Cooper's Hawks and their smaller look-alike cousins, the Sharp-shinned Hawks, eat mostly other birds, which they generally catch on the wing.

If your main prey is birds, and you usually catch them in flight, you are naturally required to be a fantastic flyer. Both Cooper's Hawks and Sharpies are superlative flyers, with an amazing ability to fly through the confined spaces of tree limbs and branches.

A Cooper's Hawk once ended up in the back warehouse portion of the former Kmart in Tehachapi, when it came inside following House Sparrows that were eating spilled bird seed. The Cooper's Hawk lived in there for at least five days before a friend and I were able to catch it. The hawk managed to evade us for hours as it flew effortlessly from one end of the building to the other between the thicket of diagonal roof braces without even grazing them.

Cooper's Hawks often end up at backyard bird feeders — not because they are attracted to the bird seed at all, but because they interested in eating the songbirds that gather at the feeder.

Cooper's Hawks are such full-throttle birds in their pursuit of winged prey that they sometimes become injured or impaled on tree branches. A study of hundreds of Cooper's hawk skeletons revealed that about a quarter of them had old, healed-over fractures in their chest bones.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.