For the love of the Cooper’s Hawk
A defense for the latchkey kid of Urban hawks
The peregrine falcon is my favorite conservation success story. I tell it often. It’s a great story because we almost lost them and I always wanted to see one in the wild as kid. I see them everywhere now. I think that’s amazing and it’s nice that we saved the bald eagle too, I guess. (Kidding. Mostly. Bald eagles are cool too, I just don’t like working with them, but that’s another story.)
Yet, no one cares that the Cooper’s hawk population plummeted. Few scientists noticed in the 60s and 70s at the height of DDT poisoning that we were killing the Cooper’s hawk too.
If there was ever an urban hawk that could be related to Gen-X, it’s the Cooper’s Hawk. Stay with me here. I’ll explain.
Every one was shooting them, deforestation was rampant, and no one noticed that as primarily a bird eater, DDT was decimating the population. There was even a bounty on them because no one loves a chicken hawk.
Oh, the Bald Eagle. (Boomers) Oh, the Peregrine. (Millennials) We must save them! And yet, we just left the Coops at home alone. Latchkey kids. They can make their own macaroni and cheese. Maybe they’ll survive. Maybe they will figure it out.
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We eliminated DDT and ultimately saved the cool birds. But how's the Coops doing? Who knows? Who cares?
That's okay, because people started greening urban areas and putting up bird feeders and slowly but surely and suddenly (to all the people who didn't care about them) they we everywhere, little introverted hawks who vow to never make a scene - until they are starving and then you've never seen such a scene. But mostly they kept to themselves and they thrived - all on their own - while everyone ignored them. Now they rule the urban jungle.
“What a pleasant irony that a raptor traditionally regarded as a forest species and deemed to be headed for extinction in the last century due to loss of woodlands is now perhaps the most common backyard breeding raptor in (nonforested) cities throughout North America. … Who would have guessed that city planners and the pervasive urban bird-feeding public conceivably (and unwittingly) contributed to the recovery of this red-eyed, blue-backed predator that is so boldly tolerant of the myriad of human activities in cities?”
Somehow the Cooper’s infiltrated our urban forests. They have moved into places they shouldn’t even be. Anecdotally, I watched as they moved into Palm Springs and further into the urban forested desert in the early 2000s. Every spring brought a surge of fledging Coops who were too hot to stay in their nests. Now, when heat surges in the spring, rehabbers contend with hundreds of fledgling hot-wired hawks who could probably rule the world with a small dose of Adderall. Fortunately, no has thought to prescribe them a dose, but still, only the the most patient of rehabbers survive the flood.
Cooper’s hawks aren’t crazy though, they just need a little understanding. Few people seem to understand how social they are. When you befriend a Cooper’s hawk, you make a friend for life. If you feed them they will find you and greet you with a brusk, “kek!” which is the Coops equivalent to “Hey, Dude!” If you answer them, you might “hey duding” for a while.
They also love to hang out in family groups. It doesn’t matter who’s kid that Coops is. If shows up for dinner, parents will feed it. They might not get something they like, but they’ll eat it. I ate the tater tot casserole my friend’s parents fed me and never said a word other than thank you. And I have never heard a Coops complain about the heads and tails and scraps I leave out for them.
I guess part of what I’m trying to say is that I relate to Cooper’s hawks. If I was a hawk I’d be one. More than that I’m wondering how many things we can discover about ourselves when we really take the time to understand history, natural history and heart of the animals we share space with, especially in our yards.
You don’t have to love Cooper’s hawks the way I do, but what do you love in yard? How heartbroken would you be if it disappeared? And if you don’t know then go find your love. It’s a simple joy that is just waiting to be discovered and to bring a little more fullness to your life.
As an aside, I know we are going to have to rename Cooper’s hawks soon. That’s okay by me. I just think they deserve a Gen-X superhero name. We should probably go back to Blue Darter.
How we are the same?
Chose an animal, plant or feature in your nature space you feel the most connected too and make a list of what you have in common.
We are all drawn to particular plants and animals in our nature space, but don’t often ask ourselves why. What draws you to it every time you see it in your nature space? What is it about this creature or feature that resonates with you? Perhaps it’s your commonalities.
Make a list of all the things you have in common with it. If you are feeling ambitious, write a few paragraphs about it. Do so research on it and see if you can find new shared attributes you didn’t know about before.
Were you surprised by how much you had in common? Are you curious about what else you have in common with other things in your nature space?
Rosenfield, R.N., Mannan, R.W., Millsap, B.A. (2018). Cooper’s Hawks: The Bold Backyard Hunters. In: Boal, C.W., Dykstra, C.R. (eds) Urban Raptors. Island Press, Washington, DC. https://doi.org/10.5822/978-1-61091-841-1_7