Cooper’s Hawk

I am working at a Potomac River waterfront job site and I stopped off at Roy Rodgers for lunch at Belle Haven in Alexandria (Dyke Marsh).  Coming out of the restaurant, I saw a blush of blackbirds, doves and gulls flee the Belle View shopping center parking lot in haste.  As I’m walking out to my truck I see a big bird flying low off to my left side, and then swoop up in front of me landing in a crab-apple tree.


The bird was a Cooper’s Hawk, a top flight predator (accipiter) that can attack on the wing, and is an outstanding flyer, being able to negotiate through understory forest cover.


I put my lunch in my truck and grabbed my camera.  The bird is right in front of me, and looks quite perturbed.  I’m think that I may have blown his cover, as he was about to take down a bird in the parking lot.


I took a few steps forward, and this bad ass bird let me get a few more photographs.


He then gave me a look as if to say, “great timing on messing up my ability to get lunch too,” and then took off with powerful wing beats and glides.  I think the bird had his quarry in sight, and I unfortunately walked right through the scene and prevented the kill.

I have an immense respect for Cooper’s, as they are top flight predators that are insanely dexterous in being able to fly through tight spots and obstacles.  The Latin name for the bird is Accipiter cooperi, which is quite appropriate, as I have seen these birds wreak havoc at our winter bird feeders and over our chicken pen.  Cooper’s and just a few other accipiters are King’s of the sky, being able to attack from the air and whack down birds and small mammals of their own size.

It’s a treat to watch king birds, swallows and martins feed on the wing, or an osprey pull a fish from the water, but nothing compares to the power and precision of a Cooper’s!  Thank you for being so photogenic for that few seconds in the suburban parking lot.