Thursday, September 22, 2022

Reviewing Hawks in my Backyard

cooper's hawk photo by mbgphoto
Young Cooper's Hawk
I have always enjoyed watching the birds at the feeders in our backyard and have been told to watch out for Hawks because they can kill the birds.  Because of this, I had never really studied much about Hawks and just considered them a bird to avoid.  Recently I have photographed some Hawks in and around our backyard and now I have a new appreciation for the fascinating creatures that they are.  Up in the air they always looked menacing, but when seen up close in a photograph I realized what beautiful details they have.  In this post I will share with you some information on two of the Hawks I have photographed in our yard.  The first is the Cooper's Hawk and the second is the Red-Shouldered Hawk. 

Cooper's Hawk

I have seen Cooper's Hawks or at least what I think are Cooper's Hawks fairly often in our area.  The photo above was taken on our back fence.  It was identified by several people on bird sites online as a young Cooper's Hawk, so I feel fairly confident with that identification.  Sometimes I find hawks colorings are so similar, especially with the differences in adults and juveniles that I am not sure of my identification.  I wrote a review on one of my favorite bird books several months back.  It is the book I used to find the information on the Cooper's Hawk.  Here is a link to that review. What it's Like to be a Bird
Here is what it has to say about the bird.
  • It is a medium-sized hawk at about 16 inches long.
  • They often keep watch at feeders and then swoop in low hoping to surprise the flock.
  • They target mid-sized birds that are slower flyers such as doves and starlings.  These birds are easier for them to grab with their talons.
  • The juveniles have vertical brown streaks on their chests with brown back while the adults will have tight horizontal reddish barring on their chests with gray crowns and backs.  Both have barred tails that are rounded at the tips.
Here are a couple photos that I think fit these descriptions.
hawk on a tree branch photo by mbgphoto

cooper's hawk on a branch photo by mbgphoto

 Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting on a satellite dish photo by mbgphoto

The photo above is a Red-Shouldered Hawk.  I captured it sitting on the satellite dish on the roof of the house behind ours.  I zoomed in and quickly took this shot before he flies away and then I carefully check my camera settings and tried to wait for him to turn his head, so I get him looking my way.  Before I could get another shot, he took off and I was able to capture him in flight.  I am particularly proud of this shot. It was the first time I had seen one of these hawks.
Red-Shouldered Hawk Taking Flight photo by mbgphoto

I looked him up in my guide to backyard birds and found the following information.

  • It is a fairly common, medium to large hawk.
  • The adult has reddish colored upperwing coverts and also densely barred reddish underparts. The wings and tail are dramatically barred in black and white.
  • The juvenile has brown-streaked underparts and a dark tail with many pale bands.
  • They make a loud screaming sound that sounds like (KEE-ahh) which is given in a series.
  • They are widespread and found in well-watered woodlands and suburban areas with nearby wood lots. 
  • They are a perch hunter and feed on frogs, snakes, lizards and small mammals.
  • Their nests are located high in trees and are made of bulky sticks.

Here is a link to the book where I got my information.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. I have always thought hawks were beautiful birds, but like you, I have never appreciated them using my backyard birds to satiate their hunger. I certainly don't mind that they thin out the snake populate though. As always, your photos are beautiful! I laughed at myself when I had to re-read the sentence that said "brown-streaked underparts" For some odd reason, I read it as underpants. I looked back at the photo and thought, wow, I guess he does look like he is wearing long johns. Then it hit me, I misread what was written. Unfortunately, I will probably never see another red hawk without thinking he is wearing long johns :)

  2. Hawks are gorgeous birds. I have never seen one in our garden but have seen them at a distance on a nature reserve. A while ago I was privileged to see one close up when a handler was giving a demonstration. They are so beautiful and I find their eyes very hypnotic. I really admire your beautiful photographs. Thank you for sharing your experience and information about these gorgeous birds.

  3. Absolutely gorgeous photos of these two hawks seen around your backyard, Mary Beth. Fantastic photo of the red-shouldered hawk in flight. You should do a book of your own of bird photographs. Lovely. And fascinating information about hawks.

  4. Oh Raintree Annie you and I are definitely kindred spirits. I love watching the hawks from our 18th floor balcony and they are around all the time. We have them flying right by our balcony and they are just so majestic in flight and beautiful when perched. I don't mind that they are predators as where I am they tend to catch pigeons (which are really messy birds) and keep those numbers in check! Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures and I love the one of the take off!

    1. Looks like I gave credit to the wrong sorry about that Mary Beth! The photos are lovely!

  5. I don't see them very often, but they are so majestic. Your photos are fantastic. The fact that these are taken in your backyard is amazing - that's quite the yard! Lovely.

  6. The neighborhood bird watchers frequently point hawks out in our urban area! They are beautiful indeed!


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