Birds & Birding

Why You’re Seeing More Hawks at Your Birdfeeder

December 31, 2018

Follow Matthew
Red-shouldered hawk in the suburbs © Cara Byington/TNC

Yesterday, I gazed out the window of my home office during a meeting, watching California quail and house sparrows forage beneath native sumac. Suddenly, the bush seemed to explode, with birds flushing in every direction.

A second later, a Cooper’s hawk deftly landed underneath the shrubbery. It began hopping around attempting to snag one of the remaining quail that hunkered down instead of flushing. But the hawk was just a little too late.

Over the years, I’ve noted more frequent sightings of both Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks around the neighborhood. You’ve probably noticed the same thing. Across the United States, these two hawk species – both similar looking and in the genus Accipiter – have increasingly colonized urban areas.

A new paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B sought to “identify factors that determine the occupancy, colonization and persistence of Accipiter hawks in a major metropolitan area.” In the course of their study, the researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Cornell Lab of Ornithology found that in the 1990s Accipiter hawks occupied 26 percent of sites around Chicago. After two decades, they occupied close to 67 percent of sites.

It’s a trend reported (often via citizen science) around the country. And a big part of it is the bird feeder in your backyard.

The Return of Raptors

By the mid-20th century, many raptor species, including Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks, had declined precipitously. Direct persecution and pesticides had taken a heavy toll. Decades of protection have caused populations to rebound, leading raptors including accipiters to reclaim habitat.

But as the birds spread, they found a new world: one of growing cities. One might initially conclude that predators would not find this new world to their liking, as it was covered in concrete and buildings instead of forests. And that’s certainly true for many wildlife species.

aerial image of housing development showing backyards and a few swimming pools.
Aerial of residential neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. © Randy Olson

But, as the researchers note in their recent paper, cities present a mix of habitats, including backyards, parks and golf courses with plenty of space. These “novel ecosystems” provide opportunity for cover and also, often, for ample food supplies.

The researchers documented the spread of the two hawk species in Chicago via observation through remote sensing data and Project FeederWatch, a citizen science initiative that has conservationists record sightings throughout the winter.

Initially, the hawks colonized areas outside the city. But they increasingly spread to more and more urbanized areas. The researchers documented usage of areas defined by what they call impervious features: roads, buildings, sidewalks. The more impervious the area, generally, the less “green” habitat.

Initially, hawks avoided these highly developed zones. But eventually, as long as there was sufficient prey, they colonized even the downtown. Over the past two years, hawks went from the city fringes to occupying much of the metropolitan area.

The researchers hypothesized that reforestation would play a role in hawk recolonization. But it didn’t. In fact, wintering hawks preferred areas with fewer trees, perhaps to better hunt prey.

The Hawk at the Feeder

Bird feeding is a hugely popular urban pastime. More than 40 percent of U.S. households feed their backyard birds.

That creates an abundance of birds, concentrated in specific, predictable areas. A predator’s bonanza.

small black and white woodpecker with a red patch on his head at a snow-covered feeder with seed in its mouth
A Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens, the smallest woodpecker in North America) on a feeder in early winter © Chis Helzer/TNC

The researchers found that the predator’s persistence in urban areas was most influenced by abundant prey. Based on citizen science and other research across the country, hawks have taken advantage of the bounty of bird feeders across the country.

Cities are rapidly changing. The novel ecosystems they create are also highly dynamic and, often, poorly understood. Songbirds, like northern cardinals, may even expand their range due to feeders. Then predators recolonize, shifting species behavior and abundance.

The researchers cite studies in England that show the recolonization of Eurasian sparrowhawks in cities caused a dramatic decline in house sparrows as well as other species commonly found at bird feeders. The sparrows had exploded in population due to the free food sources and lack of predators. When the predators returned, it caused an immediate shift in the urban ecosystem.  It’s not so different, really, than what happened when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone and found a park with an over-population of elk.

An inactive fountain in a suburban front yard makes a good perch for a red-shouldered hawk © Cara Byington/TNC

The researchers note that similar shifts in prey abundance might be expected in Chicago and other cities. Some studies have found that urban hawks are feeding heavily on European starlings, house sparrows and pigeons – all non-native species – so they could actually reduce competition for native songbirds.

Do bird feeders change migration patterns? At least one study found that sharp-shinned hawks on the East Coast were less likely to migrate due to the abundance of bird feeders.

Research into Urban Ecosystems is Vital for the Future of Conservation

Clearly, research into urban ecosystems is vital for the future of conservation. Understanding how species interact, and how species use new habitats, can help better design parks and refuges. Perhaps endangered animals that many consider incompatible with cities actually could recolonize urban areas if given a chance. After all, 50 years ago no one considered the Cooper’s hawk to be an urban bird.

And let’s not forget a key factor in helping scientists understand urban wildlife: you. The observations you make at your bird feeder, at the city park and along a greenbelt trail help researchers understand novel ecosystems and their wild inhabitants. While your observations may seem anecdotal, when combined with millions of other observers, they add up to a significant data set.

So, yes, you really are seeing more hawks at your bird feeder. Enjoy the show this winter: the restoration of the predator-prey dynamic to the urban wild.

Join the Discussion

Please note that all comments are moderated and may take some time to appear.


  1. Thanks very much for this excellent article that addresses one of the most interesting and uplifting aspects of continued urbanization, the increasing populations of some raptor species. Citizen scientists have contributed significantly to our knowledge of this phenomenon, through eBird and other projects. For further information, there’s been a new book on the topic published in 2018 titled Urban Raptors: Ecology and Conservation of Birds of Prey in Cities.

  2. Yes recently a sharp-shinned hawk nabbed a back-headed bird (junco or black capped chickadee) at my back yard finch feeder in suburban Hawthorne, NJ. The hawk perched by the feeder for quite some time eating its little catch. The feeder was quiet the next few days as though the killing had been witnessed. Now the finches, juncos and others are back.

  3. I have lived in Fraser, CO for 14 years. When I first moved here, Ospreys were few and far between. I only saw them once or twice a year. This passed year I observed at least 4 pairs staying near the same areas around Grand County. Also have seen more Bald Eagles. Something right is happening.

  4. I was wondering why I was seeing more but I notice a decline in American Kestrel Hawk

  5. We have a Coopers Hawk that has made numerous appearances in our yard here in Atlanta over the past couple of months. We have a tiny pond and witnessed him plucking a frog from it and flying away with it this past week. Really fun to watch him. He sits in a dogwood waiting and watching sometimes for 30 minutes or more.

  6. I’m very curious about this photo. The red-shouldered hawk looks as if it could have what falconers in days gone by called “frounce”, or canker, caused by a protist Trichomonas gallinae. Hawks and owls can be infected by eating infected doves and pigeons, or possibly drinking at contaminated fountains! If you look closely at the base of the neck just under the beak, it looks a bit puffy, which might indicate an infection of the esophagus. Just a guess, but I’ve studied this parasite in doves and pigeons many years ago and published a chapter in a textbook, Mourning Doves in North America. Like I said, just curious…

    1. That’s very interesting. I think I have some higher resolution images that might give you a closer look. Let me know if you’d like me to send them your way. Photo was taken in North Florida near St. Augustine last week.

  7. Oh, that explains it! I started feeding here in Connecticut three years ago and now see a good number of hawks sitting nearby in trees. Red shouldered, peregrine, one redtail and a few I wasn’t sure of IDs. Witnessed redshouldered pair mating! I have added strips to my windows as one juvenile came straight at it. He flew away okay. Very exciting to see them all! If I lose a songbird or two, it’s okay, I have plenty.

  8. Just had a 1syt sitting in a bush outside our kitchen window by the feeders & bath
    Springville ny

  9. This is good news! However one concern is the evidence that bird hunters like Accipiter are increasingly at risk of secondary poisoning from rodenticides in the city and suburbs. Normally they would not take rats, but are tempted by easily caught rats affected by rodenticides. See recent research by Mike Lohr.
    Also urban peregrines affected by poisoned pigeons in Melbourne Australia. We have got to stop this massive use of cheap poisons!

  10. We know there are red tail hawks in our neighborhood. Sunday, 12/30/18 I called my husband to the back slider because there was a lone bird, back to me, sitting on a wall, and NO other bird activity in sight. Size alone makes me peer through the binoculars. My husband and I agreed, yep, a hawk. It flew away and the usual sparrow, finch, pine siskin, scrub jay, California quail appear. (Along with the pigeons that I scarecrow away) Today, 1/3/19, I backed out of my driveway and water was flowing down the gutters. As I tried to see where it was coming from (probably a frozen pipe burst) I saw a juvenile hawk drinking water from the overflow (around the corner and up the street, water was flowing from a backyard hose.) I love feeding and watching my backyard birds in Reno, NV! Thanks!

  11. I have seen a Cooper’s Hawk sitting on my fence surrounding my patio in downtown Chicago twice. Very surprised to see one on the 3rd floor of a condo building!

  12. Excellent read. Last summer we had up to 3 hawks in our Chicago backyard for up to 4 weeks regularly sighted in action. There is plenty of wildlife around here.

  13. Great article. I think too, wildlife have a genetic ability to adapt to differing living situations.

  14. A Cooper’s Hawk has been roosting in a neighbor’s tree watching my bird feeder, which has a surprisingly fewer number of birds this winter


  16. Feeding birds my whole life just loving it , now with the increase of hawks just to walk outside and hear the perfect silence of no birds . It’s somthing that’s it’s happening more often . Also I noticed that the hawk is not even fearful of me when I walk into the yard . I live next to the Greenbelt on Long Island New York, wondering how do I keep feeding these birds and not making it easy target for the hawk , nothing like the site of a hawk in the yard and a woodpecker planted against the branch of a tree ,not to move an inch amazing

  17. Cooper’s Hawks have learned to use our huge plate-glass windows to nab birds from our feeder-filled yard. The hawks Intentionally spook the small birds towards the windows. The persuing hawks know exactly where the windows are, and swing wide, then immediately circle back to grab any stunned bird. I witnessed this at least 10 times last year alone. It’s not just one clever hawk; I’ve seen both adult and juvenile hawks do it. I think a Sharpie has done it as well.

  18. I live in the Herndon/Reston, VA area. There is a Merlin that’s been hanging around the Trader Joe’s just off Baron Cameron Blvd. This bird seems to have been in the area for a month or more. This bird is very vocal. Seems like he is crying. Additionally, I just returned from MN this last week where I counted a dozen Red Tailed Hawks and an Eagle — all either on light poles lining the 494-highway or in the case of the eagle, flying over a bridge in St. Paul. Minneapolis is a great place to do urban birding for hawks, eagles, and other hunters. I’ve noticed that Herndon/Reston is good for Turkey and Black Vultures.

  19. We have a trifecta of visiting hawks at our bird feeders, Cooper’s is the most common, followed by a few observations of Sharp-shinned Hawks. But the rare and exciting one is Merlin (a small falcon). They are very very fast and the birds seem even more frightened by them. When one started to visit last year the feeders were nearly abandoned for a while. I’ve seen one this year, but we have plenty of House Sparrows, so I hope it comes back and has a feast (I’d prefer to have fewer House Sparrows). The Cooper’s seem to prefer Mourning Doves here in Ohio.

  20. The only problem is the increased hawk population is very hard on pigeon fanciers who fly their pigeons….the sport of racing pigeons is being ruined by the increased hawk population……they would go into my loft after birds…..

  21. We have lots of Coopers Hawks here in Tucson. Arizona along with some Harris Hawks and Red Tail Hawks. We especially see the Coopers Hawks in the Midtown areas where they appear to prey on pigeons and roost on parking lot lights and tall business buildings. Nice to know they are making a comeback.

  22. We have lots of Coopers Hawks here in Tucson. Arizona along with some Harris Hawks and Red Tail Hawks. We especially see the Coopers Hawks in the Midtown areas where they appear to prey on pigeons and roost on parking lot lights and tall business buildings. Nice to know they are making a comeback. Btw, we also have Coopers Hawks in our neighborhood in San Diego California too.

  23. I am quite the active wildlife observer. I do think that hawks are being seen in urban areas more now than say eight to ten years ago. I do think bird numbers are declining and it’s not just because of hawks. There are numerous reasons. Mostly because of humans. Bird numbers will continue to fall and when there is a shortage of birds to satisfy our birds of prey, birds of prey will drop dramatically also. Enjoy your bird watching now. It will change.

  24. Here in southern New Hampshire we see Hawks every now and then stalking the smaller birds that feed at our bird feeders. They are beautiful but we always root for the little ones to escape !

  25. We live in the Hyde Park – Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago, south side near the lakefront and have regular visits from a Cooper’s hawk for the last three years when our bird feeders are out. We get sparrows by the dozens, some finches, chickadees (who will stick around, hopping about in the lilac bush and scolding the hawk!), and cardinals in the winter. The hawk flies into the yard and sits on the 7 ft wood fence searching for any birds that didn’t scatter fast enough. It will stay for 10-15 minutes at a time and then fly off. The park district has planted a lot of prairie plants along Lake Shore Drive and in Jackson Park during the past years. We have noticed more variety of birds in spring and fall stopping for a day or two while they are migrating.

  26. I’ve certainly noticed the more abundance of Coopers and Sharp Shinned hawks here in my neighborhood and at my feeders the last 2 years. Never had a problem with either of them in previous years. But they have found “good eating” and plenty of prey from the song birds at my feeders. They also have been taking a tole on my chickens in the back yard.
    russell studebaker, tulsa,ok . 1/12/19

  27. My daughter lives at the edge of a small Vermont village near a wildlife area and a pond. An agricultural area that includes wetlands is nearby. She and her disabled husband enjoy feeding the many birds that visit their yard, and they provide something for everybody. Hawks have always been part of the mix: it is almost like a choreographed dance as the birds maneuver around each other. Those little birds are pretty smart, but the hawks have families to feed too, so we cheer them on. Another part of this performance are the crows who have established a relationship with my daughter, and wait patiently while she takes out her collection of bread scraps for them. They hang about, and serve as the “police force” for the bird-feeding area. When hawks and falcons show up, the crows seem to enjoy harassing them until they give up and leave. It’s always entertaining to be witness to these interactions among the avian community. A great learning experience for my granddaughter, too.

  28. They are wonderful to watch- just got off a walk on the beach and saw a Red Shoulder,Cooper and Osprey.
    Bill Mullen
    Isle of Palms ,SC

  29. I live a few hours south of Chicago and have noticed what I think is a Cooper’s hawk that checks out my bird feeders periodically. The birds clear out when he makes an appearance but the squirrels don’t seem to mind.

  30. Camden, Maine. Property surrounded by woods . Sharp-shinned OR Coopers yesterday at feeder – a first. Was within 20 ft with binoculars and still couldn’t decide. Chickadee feathers on snow, so guess hawk was not starving. Exciting, even thrilling to see this miracle of nature in hunting mode so close. Thanks for great article!
    Bill Scoble

  31. Thank you for this information. We live in Santa Fe New Mexico & are in deed finding more hawks at our bird feeders & heated bird bath. We have had these visitors over the last decade. We actually moved our bird feeder,, but keep suet in the trees. The bird feeder is now in an area near a thick hedge & large trees where the small birds can hide with some cover to escape the hawk.

  32. I live in Long Island NY and yes the Red tailed hawks are now more. I see them along the parkways nesting and hunting. They also catch the doves from my feeders. But it is good to see them rebound from the 70s die off. I have even seen a Bald eagle on my journeys around the Island as a health aide. Thanks for the article.
    Sincerely ,
    Debra Domino.

  33. We see more Cooper’s Hawks in the city now that we used to. Our hometown is Owatonna MN. This bird will hit the side of our evergreen tree with open wings. Sparrows who sought shelter and safety in the trees will then fly out and the Cooper’s Hawk will catch the sparrow on the wing. What an awesome sight!!

  34. A very interesting, readable and formated story, it was not too long, but enough to chew on.

  35. At work in my northern Virginia suburban kitchen one afternoon this autumn, I heard a loud thud which shook the wall and sounded like impact between animal and glass. I ran to the family room and saw a 6-inch smear of goo and fluff on one of the french doors. I noticed a hawk making a slow landing on my neighbor’s lawn. On the ground twelve feet below my door lay a dead woodpecker. I assume the woodpecker saw the hawk and, in process of fleeing, flew full-speed into the door. The hawk stayed around for a few minutes, then flew away.

    1. Your glass needs windows stickers of maybe a raptor for the birds to know it’s not safe to fly at( windows kill huge numbers of birds). The woodpecker would likely have avoided the glass and survived even the hawk which left the dead bird and likely killed another one in it’s place. Clean glass also increase bird kills I believe because it reflects open spaces and trees / bushes which the glass isn’t.

  36. Matt:
    Thanks for the article. We are fortunate enough to have 4 acres of land in Canyon County and two acres are urban woodland that house at least one nesting pair of Cooper Hawks each year. Just by allowing the tress to grow and encouraging positive bird habitat we get to witness all of the benefits of urban wildlife, including; Bald Eagles this time of year coming off the Boise River, Osprey’s all spring and summer, an occasional Red Tail hawk, Ferruginous hawk, Banded Neck dove, Robins, English Sparrow, Gold Finch, House Finch, Chickadee, Junco, and of course Magpie. In the 25 years that we have lived at this address we have witnessed the residential encroachment that has taken away the farmland and with it the Pheasant and occasional Chukar. Even the California Quail numbers are down for the time being. But the best way I can think of starting a morning is with a cup of coffee, sitting on the deck (bundled-up this time of year) watching the sun come up and watching the birds come into the feeders for their morning meal and a drink at our backyard pond. The sounds and sights, even the occasional fly-by of a Cooper are a relaxing reminder that nature is still all around us. Even though the squirrels are a major nuisance.

  37. Interesting! I have recently seen a beautiful Coopers Hawk lurking in the trees near my amply filled feeders, obviously enjoying the sight of all the little woodpeckers and finches conveniently gathering for him. We are in a suburban well wooded neighborhood.

  38. I have had feeding birds snatched off my sunflower seed feeder by both a Peregrine and a Coopers while I was looking out the dining room window. The Coopers nest in a neighborhood park and the Peregrines nest on the ledge of a tall commercial building in the Lloyd Center area of Portland Orygun.

  39. Yes we live next to the Elwood Monarch butterfly preserver and I noticed no visitors to the niger seed bird feeder. Soon it was clear great photo of a Copper’s hawk perched on the feeder. It would be a brave and hungry finch to come to the feeder.

  40. Has anyone else witnessed a hawk striking or stooping on a squirrel? Last year I saw what I think must have been a Sharp-shinned hawk nearly nab a young squirrel that was gorging itself at a seed tray! This happened right on my deck, just outside my kitchen window. All the birds scattered when several squirrels moved in, and maybe that’s what caught the hawk’s attention (it caught mine). I was looking at the feeder when I saw a smallish hawk with a white and black striped tail and reddish chest and belly practically explode right above the squirrel-occupied seed tray on my deck railing, almost nabbing a young squirrel too intent on the seeds, and then chasing it closely as it dropped to the ground and ran and dodged frantically. Amazing! The lucky little squirrel managed to slip through a gap under the deck and avoid certain death that day.

  41. Come on to Minneapolis. We’ve been observing (without documenting much) exactly this along the Mississippi urban area. I’m sure our Christmas count over the years will offer all the proof you need.

  42. I live near the George Washington Parkway between Alexandria, Virginia and the Mount Vernon Estate. We have had several visits from Cooper’s hawks at our back yard feeder over the years. My wife and I enjoy seeing the hawks, and they aren’t near the problem for our birds that local cats are.

  43. What kind of bird feeder would you recommend that won’t feed squirrels or rats.

  44. Last year I found a hawk sitting on my fire escape. I took her picture and since then she comes around periodically. I suppose she has ample prey since we also have lots of song birds and field mice. I was astonished but ever so happy. I think it was a female since it seemed larger than the Male which has also appeared this past summer.

  45. Yes, we have seen Cooper’s hawks at our feeders, mutilple times over the past years. We live in Boulder Co.

  46. We have seen and heard Barred Owls in the neighborhood for the past twenty years, but I don’t remember seeing a Coopers Hawk until about five years ago when I found one sitting on the roof of a post feeder in our front yard. I have not seen a hawk catch a bird, but have occasionally found a pile of the leftover feathers. Most of the feathers found were those of a Dove, but every once in a while I find a Cardinal. Last summer while walking our dogs down the street, from a distance I saw what I thought looked like a Red Tailed hawk carry a squirrel from one large oak tree across the street to another, but the hawk dropped the squirrel just short of the second tree. Although the hawk did not stop but continued flying south to a third tree, a nearby neighbor saw a hawk later return to retrieve the squirrel.

  47. There are interesting videos on you tube depicting accipiter’s ability to navigate thru suburban landscapes to catch birds. I have had a sharpie in the yard for years, and hang my feeder in dense 10 ‘ high shrubs. Not perfect, but helpful. The small birds know this hawk and sound the alarm whenever he’s around.
    My yard has a 50′ by 50’ lawn framed by shrubs and trees in an area that ranges from suburban to semi rural.

  48. We have a resident pair of Coopers Hawks who have been successfully fledging young next to our backyard. They nest in a Eucalyptus tree but use a power pole as the “hand off”spot when the hunting parent returns with dinner. The hunter has a distinct vocalization to call the sitting parent. Very cool to see the handoff at such close range. I can’t wait for their breeding season to get here again.
    FYI We are near downtown San Diego.

  49. Excellent article! I live in the Albuquerque, NM suburb of Rio Rancho, and a Cooper’s Hawk occasionally shows up in my backyard.

  50. I had a sharpie settle in for meals in my Brooklyn, NY garden earlier this year. My neighborhood is all brownstones and low rise apartment buildings. I have a feeder that attracts mainly sparrows and mourning doves. I saw this hawk dive a few times while I was indoors but I figured it would keep its distance once I was outside working at close quarters. Hah! While my back was turned that hawk swooped in to kill not ten feet away from me.

  51. This article makes a lot of sense to me. I live in a quiet wooded neighborhood in Metro Atlanta. I was feeder watching in my sun room recently and observed a Coopers hawk chasing a terrified sparrow right at me into my plate glass window. It was so fast I ducked! Fortunately the sparrow flew up and avoided the window at the very last moment and the hawk banged his head and flew away empty handed. However I found a lot of feathers on the deck this morning so he may have been successful the next time.

  52. I lived in Portland, Oregon for almost 10 years, and next to my house was an one-acre open field, ringed by numerous large trees, that eventually became a CSA farm. There were Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks working the area the whole time I lived there. Once I saw one take out a robin in mid-air, pinning it to the chain link fence with wings flapping wildly, till dead. And after I and all my neighbors started keeping backyard chickens, there developed a rat issue which prompted most of us to get rid of the chickens, but was a boon for the hawks. Once while working in the garden I watched one snag a big fat rat, carrying it squirming and squealing up to an old growth Doug fir to enjoy for lunch!

  53. Yes! I live in Akron, Ohio, about one hour south of Cleveland . This is the fist time I’ve seen these hawks near my birdfeeders in the winter. I haven’t seen them take any birds, but they do capture the squirrels trying to get the bird food. We live on a lake so I also put cracked corn out for the ducks in the winter. This year I haven’t seen any ducks get captured, but about 4 years ago we had a pair of bald eagles nearby that ate a number of ducks out on the ice, near a tiny island in the center of the lake. Yesterday, for the first time since then, I spotted a bald eagle sitting in one of our trees watching the ducks in the water, which is about 3/4 frozen. He soon flew away without a meal. I LOVE the nature show in my backyard!

  54. We have had a pair of Sharp-shinned hawks “feeding” at our bird feeders for several years now. They took many birds feeding at our hanging suet feeders. We do have fewer songbirds now.
    Recently I started placing seed under a wrought iron table by the pool and we seem to have many more songbirds eating in the relative protection underneath.

  55. I have been seeing a hawk/hawks in my small town backyard. Now I know why. Seeing them is cool. I hate that some smaller birds might be killed but hawks have to eat too. And they don’t have the alternative options that humans do.

  56. Interesting article; it certainly fits with what I’ve seen over the past two decades of birding.

  57. All this appears to be true. I have had both Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp Shinned Hawks in my urban yard. We have only lived here for just over a year. Having seen both birds on our farm, I was surprised to see them visit pour in town home. This occurred after we began feeding the local birds. We used to have 20+ sparrows, several woodpeckers, many dove, wrens, cardinal, bluejays and starlings.
    All that changed after the Hawks came. Lots of feathers from “kills” and the NO birds.
    It is now rare to see more than a few Juncos and no other species. They to eat as well but spread it around please.

  58. Experience at bird feeder just east of Hamilton, OH, 45011. A pair of brownish hawks nested in Silver Maple trees about 60 feet off the ground and to feed on the native song birds at my bird feeder filled with sunflower seeds. To stop the predation of the feeding song birds; a screen of wire trellises was place about 3 feet from the feeded. The song birds were no longer preyed upon while at my feeder. The birds did have to fly more that 60 feet from cover to the feeder. Several sunflower seeds grew to maturity along these trellises, helping to mask the severity of the bare wire trellises.
    I have continued the wire trellis screening thru winter.

  59. Cooper’s in NC TX are hunting wild ranging flocks of Rock Doves quite proficiently. Witnessed. Suburban hedges form good cover for small birds near feeders, but I have seen Sharpshins perch nearby & flush songbirds from one side of hedge to the other, wing over the hedge & take a prey on the far side. Great news for Accipitees either way!

  60. Yes, this is certainly true with us! After two weeks of recording birds for the Cornell bird feeding study, we stopped feeding the birds because of an aggressive Coopers hawk who not only took a Goldfinch from a window feeder, bur quite happily sat directly above a feeder waiting for the birds to come. When we went to the window to count birds and not one was in sight, we sometimes found a Cooper’s sitting in a nearby lilac bush or in a maple tree close by. We eventually put one feeder inside a bush that the little songbirds would use, and only partially filled it, so one one would linger there too long!

  61. Thank you for this article! I put out food every morning for the local birds & squirrels. Have done so for about twenty years now. About three years ago we noticed a family of Coopers Hawks in the area. The next year – they built a nest in our Sycamore tree and soon there were two young hawks frequenting our bird bath. It’s not just the hawks – we are seeing a growing population of Owls in the area as well. Fascinating,

  62. We have a virtual bird sanctuary in our small backyard with varied feeders, evergreen trees and shrubbery, and a pond with waterfall. A family of several generations of crows frequents a feeder tray (with dog kibble), the pond, and the garage roof (where they get occasional bread or cheese.) One at a time they hang in the cedar outside my son’s window and meet him outside when they want a cheese or bread treat.
    We also have a sharpie and a Cooper’s which hang around, usually on the fence near the feeders. The crows don’t like them. They call their friends and with incredible cawing the dozens chase the hawks from the neighborhood. That’s how they earn their feeder tray and occasional treats. The mob has also been photographed chasing an eagle who landed street side with the possum he was carrying.
    Interestingly the crows disappear when our mini Aussie goes in the yard. The songbirds are not bothered by him.

  63. I have 4 small bird feeders outside of my dining room window so imagine my surprise when I looked out several days ago and saw a Cooper’s hawk walking around the ground under the feeders. All of the birds had flown away and only a lone squirrel was hunkered down in the one flat open feeder. The bird then perched on one of the landscape light fixtures before flying away. My granddaughter had seen him several days earlier. He was small and an immature bird. Wish I could include the photos I took.

  64. We live in a suburban area in Albany, New York. We feed the birds and squirrels in our yard. I noticed a Cooper Hawk in a tree by our house. To my disbelief he swooped down and got a little Sparrow. I told my cousin if I had a gun I would shoot it. She told me it is survival of the fittest. He came back a few more times that winter and grabbed up the small birds. I was so frustrated! I can not stand to see any hawks near our house. I was always under the impression that hawks lived in forests. We have a fairly large park at the end of our street with a lot of tree cover. I think that is where they come from. I am one of those people that feel guilty for feeding the birds and having them come to my feeders to eat and get eaten. I know all animals have to eat but I have been researching to see if there is anything I can put out for the hawks.

  65. In the past 10 years, Cooper’s hawks have become increasingly visible at my home in the city of Milwaukee. It seems directly related to the presence of bird feeders. While there are tons of starlings year round, it is not their prey of choice. They really depradadate the mourning doves. It was not unusual to count 30 or more doves. Today I am lucky to see 5-10. I often find the remainders of these doves under my own feeders.. The crows in the area are always harassing the Coopers in spite of the crows steep losses from West Nile Fever. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future

  66. We really appreciate informative articles, especially as the dynamics keep changing in our world, so we can keep up and change as we should. Thank you.

  67. A Cooper’s Hawk resides in our Wilmette neighborhood and is often seen terrorizing songbirds. Most interesting, though, was when my spouse saw it glide across our back yard and perch atop our fence for a better view of the skunk ambling along on the other side. The hawk hopped along above the skunk for a minute or two before thinking better of it, and then flew silently away.

  68. I enjoy reading about nature in so many ways . The joy of seeing birds of prey & many other birds & animals of nature is beautiful!

  69. I gave a pair of Cooper Hawks that hang around my feeders. They usually go after turtle doves. They only come about once or maybe twice a week. They sit on my gutter or trees close by my feeders. They usually leave the small birds alone and go after the doves.

  70. I enjoyed your article, we have 4 bird feeders as well as 2 bird baths. The Cooper’s hawks enjoy sitting in the trees or on the fence behind the shrubs looking for their prey. They do succeed but a lot of times they don’t. There is a squirrel that actually chases the hawks away when they are both around. I have noticed that the hawks are more prevalent now than a few years ago.

  71. Kansas City provides an open woodland environment and even near downtown, there are fingers of forest that go into housing areas. Though, whole waiting one day at an intrsection and some construction, I watched a Cooper’s hawk flush pigeons off a building at 31st and Main, then snatch one up to eat. It settled on a decorative top building edge to pick it.

    I moved a bit farther south, and the Barred Owlsand Coopers Hawks keep the birds and squirrels on their toes.

  72. Just last week (mid January) I looked out my window to the world and across the street on a fence post was a beautiful sharp shinned hawk! The sight was mesmerizing… This is in the town of Vancouver WA USA… A few days later I believe it was at the top of a tall Hawthorn tree. Not sure if it was the same bird as that was far away and my binoculars were in my car ~ drat!

  73. I have been concerned about the resurgence of these hawks. Although, I do not regret the loss of our burgeoning chipmonk population, isnt there a risk of imbalance? I feel I am seeing way too many hawks. They are unafraid of me, and often watch me in the garden.

    1. Hi Sandra,
      Thanks for your comment and question. Predators are a natural part of a healthy ecosystem. They are focusing on the most abundant prey, so there is not evidence they are negatively impacting native songbird populations. In my neighborhood, for instance, the influx of hawks is feeding on California quail, house sparrows and fox squirrels — and these are all non-native species.

  74. I would like to communicate with Dave about a special project in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey which brings back into the mix, small numbers of people moving into primitive areas , within the midst of higher population areas, when the people moving in are living more primitive lifestyles and thus blending in and actually enhancing the environment , in a sense similar to the Wolf Project in Yellowstone.

    I am originally from New Jersey and go back there often. Presently I live in Iowa – the Hawkeye State.

    In Truth in Nature
    Steve Ulicny

  75. Since we have added a bird feeder (open plate based) We have seen a remarkable numner of birds including Blue Jays, red-headed Wood Peckers, Mourning doves (dozens at times),Robins (less so now), a variety of small birds, sparrows and the like, cardinals. We have also seen Hawks (as well as feathers indicting a Hawk was successful) and, occaisionally, Crows. The Crows have been observed to chase after a Hawk. In the summers, our Cannas provide nectar for humming birds.

    Durand Park a passive use park is steps away. Many deer live in the park and have been a nuisance

    Monmouth County, NJ

  76. I have hawks at my feeders in Lake George NY, mostly red tailed and sharpies. Years ago in NJ I had them too and one sneaky Sharp Shinned would creep thru the shrubs near the feeders and lurk there until it was time to strike. One day he perched in the open on a tall pieris by my window and rested, but was watchful of the human audience. He looked right at me with his golden eyes – fearless stunning predator.

  77. Hello, found a Cooper’s at my feeder in Tacoma Wa ( I believe a Cooper’s)
    for the first time ever for me- daily for the last 3 days.
    it lands
    then hops to the ground and searches under the brambles- we have mice and rats too, due to chickens.


  78. Very interesting information and photos, and good news about cities providing lost habitat. Also, good to hear that the presence of predators in cities is helping to cut down on exotic species!

  79. Very informative article! We live in a suburb of a small western city & see the Coopers & Sharp-shinned hawks regularly in the tall trees near the ditches where we have bird feeders. Glad for the information about the trend nationwide, & especially that the non-native birds are big targets for the predators.

  80. I feed California quail (scatter seed) and pine siskins (finch sock). There is a strong presence of Red Shoulder Hawks here. The doves were the first to get eaten as they were the least aware birds. Now the quail are prey. Several broods of quail this year, more so than normal I think.

  81. So, perhaps a stupid question, but…. while feeders have helped accipiter hawk populations, is it too harmful for the songbird population?

    1. Hi Jenni, This is a great question! The researchers found no evidence that this predation is harming songbird populations. The bird feeders have actually increased population of some bird species. Also, a number of urban birds are not native (house sparrows, starlings, pigeons), and the hawks will prey on them pretty heavily.

  82. What a great article! Thank you!
    I have had my bird feeders up out back in view from my kitchen table for three years.
    Last spring, an interesting bird was perched on the fence near the feeders. It was a large bird with a hawk-shaped body and black and white dots on its wings and tail. In looking it up in several bird books, I found it was an immature sharp shinned hawk. I don’t know if it is that youngster now grown to adult that appears at my feeder from time to time, but I have seen evidence on the ground of its successful hunt.
    The other morning, I was at my kitchen table looking out the window at the activity around the bird feeder, when suddenly there was an explosion of gray feathers. I ran to the sliding glass door and looked out to see a sharp shinned hawk standing on top of a band-tailed pigeon. The hawk tooked at me, I looked at it, and then it slowly lifted off, struggling to carry the weight of its prey. It went to the far side of the back yard and proceeded to enjoy its morning meal.
    Your article eased my concerns about whether my bird feeders were really a good thing for the many birds that come and feed each day. I was feeling like it was somewhat of a set-up. My good intentions leading the birds to a place where they were easy prey for the hawk.
    Thank you again for your article..
    Beth Kraft
    Novato, California

  83. Great article! Gives me a perspective on the relationship that has developed between a Cooper’s Hawk, and my backyard. He has become part of the neighborhood, and my backyard bird experience. And he is very exciting to watch when he arrives.

    A few days ago I heard the rush of wings which I thought might be the arrival of the Cooper’s Hawk, and the flushing of the Mourning Doves. When I went to investigate, I saw the Cooper’s Hawk trying to get a foothold on a hanging house-style bin feeder. It was flying first on one side, then to the other side. I thought he was just trying to get a foothold to perch on the feeder. Then I finally saw that there was a small bird trapped between the two clear plastic sides that houses the seed. The feeder was empty, and the bird had gotten inside, perhaps in its panic at the appearance of the Cooper’s Hawk. The hawk was unable to get at the bird protected as it was by the plastic. When the hawk left, I opened the roof of the feeder, reached in, and took hold of the small bird, an American goldfinch. I released it into the air, and it promptly flew up onto a 10K high-voltage power line crossing through my backyard. Not 40′ from the Cooper’s Hawk perched on the remains of a dead Aleppo pine in my backyard.

  84. Several red tail hawks haunt the woods in Riverside Park in Manhattan where I have feeders in a Forever Wild section of the park. I keep the feeders on twiggy low trees so that in winter (which is the only time I put out feeders) the hawks can’t gain access. They do hover around! I always know when they’re nearby because the house and white throated sparrows make a racket and hide in bushes; other birds just disappear. It causes a lot of drama but so far no kills. Lucy Warner

  85. We here in Katy, TX (Houston suburb) are delighted to report a sharp decline of European starlings and house sparrows at our feeders and I’ve been wondering if it was because of the noticeable variety of hawks spotted circling the area. For several years starlings & sparrows were so heavily invasive we nearly stopped feeding birds altogether. This winter we have spotted very few! Finches & songbirds prevail. Yay!

  86. There has definitely been an increase in accipiter activity in my backyard, especially by the Cooper’s Hawk. I do not have exotic species using my feeders, so the Cooper’s Hawk shows a definite preference for Mourning Doves.

  87. Excellent article. We live on 60 acres in Healdsburg, Ca. We fill 4 large feeders a day The evergreen vines on our home provide perfect nesting, evening habitat and in the winter the ivy berries are a great food source for the Blue birds and Flickers . With food, water and habitat for breeding and roosting, we have a multitude of bird species on our property throughout the year. And yes, we have hawks….lots of them. Just today, a Coopers Hawk flew right over our feeders. We have less hawk /feeder issues (usually Coopers or Kestrels) when the trees have their leaves and do a better job sheltering the feeder area. So, even though we live in the ‘county’ we are following urban bird feeding protocol. And the theory about hawks and feeders is well supported on our property.

  88. I, as well, vacillate on whether, that by providing specialty seed and suet, I am setting up my winter birds “for the kill” at the feeder. However, I provide a variety of cover, shrubs that berry in the winter, cover (trees and shrubs with thick brush), water (etc), and feel that it helps them survive the otherwise varying challenges of our northeast winter. Losses of a few, I hope, allows the many to make it through the winter.

  89. I have a Cooper Hawk that has been visiting my feeders eight winter/fall/spring months out of the year. In fact, he “hangs out” off and on about six visits a day for 15 or more minutes…more than is suggested in my hawk book. His protocol is to frighten birds into hitting the glass of my home then to sit on a piece of lawn furniture only feet away from where I am standing, to retrieve his stunned bird.

  90. This article is absolutely true. When we moved to our current home 12 years ago to Lincoln, CA., I rarely saw a Cooper’s Hawk in the area. The city is a bedroom community to Sacramento, Ca. and is surrounded by farmlands to the west and north, the suburban zone starts with Lincoln and is then followed by a couple more continuous development until you Sacramento. I could say the same thing about Canadian Geese, but that would require going back 30 years around Sacramento, where the only place I ever saw them was up in Reno, Nevada, about a 2.5 hour drive over the Sierra Nevadas. Now, the area is loaded with them as well. I have a couple bird feeders out, along with a Hummingbird feeder and a couple times in the last year it has been visited by a Cooper’s Hawk looking for a meal. Another brand new bird to the backyard last year was a species of Oriole, whether a Hooded or Nelson, I don’t know. I have never seen one in the 12 years at this house and we had a breeding pair frequenting the Hummingbird feeder frequently. Then, about two weeks ago we spotted a single Oriole at the feeder, a male, but smaller than the male from last year, maybe it was an offspring. These new sightings create a lot of excitement around the house. The Cooper’s Hawk can be seen commonly now at specific locations around town, mostly perched on poles or a nearby freeway sound wall surveying adjoining fields for prey. In the last few years many common pigeons have set up residence in the area as well, they are growing in numbers and they add more to the Coopers and other hawk’s menu I suppose. There are Red Tail Hawks in the region too, but they have been around since day one. We are really happy these new birds are returning, or maybe they are setting up for the first time?

  91. Chipmunks also increase in density around bird feeders. Chipmunks rarely tolerate others of their kind around bird feeders. They actively chase each other frequently which provides a distraction that my
    Coopers Hawk takes advantage of. I saw a Coopers snatch up a chipmunk in flight. It left only the tail which it snips off.

  92. Hi Matthew,

    I live in Massachusetts near the RI border. I feed birds in our yard. I keep the hawks away through a deal I made with the local crows: I feed the crows; they chase the hawks away!

  93. How does one participate in submitting observations; are there rules about about observing-time of day, frequency of observation, etc. do households need to enroll?

    1. There are numerous ways you can share your observations. Check out the Great Backyard Bird Count and Project FeederWatch for starters. Both have rules for sharing observations but they are very user-friendly. There are a number of apps that allow you to record sightings and many do not have restrictions on time of day, frequency, etc. They allow you to record observations wherever and whenever they occur. I recommend iNaturalist as it allows you to record sightings of any species, not just birds.

  94. We have Cooper’s Hawks nesting in our yard every summer, and wiping out our smaller birds. They don’t seem to bother our Lesser Goldfinches and the number of hummingbirds nesting in our yard have increased. There are studies (can’t remember citation) showing that hummingbirds prefer nesting near Cooper’s Hawks.

  95. I frequently have a Cooper’s Hawk that hunts near my feeders and also my birdbath and water hole. He does hang around the neighborhood as we attract pigeons with 2 storied homes. We also have many doves and some quail. Alas, He also got the tired migrating Yellow billed Cuckoo that spent a few days in my yard. That did make me sad. However, a wildlife scientist came and got the remains from my freezer. It will be used for science education. Barbara in Tucson

  96. thank you for nashville area”s in east nashville not to far from river,see beautiful hawks daily!love it every time!my brother lives next door,3 weeks ago he was working in his backyard,a bald Eagle flew down eye level with him,he was speechless!its amazing to see birds of prey.

  97. My husband and I recently saw what we think was a juvinile red shouldered hawk in our backyard stalking our feeders. We had only seen a hawk in our yard once before a few years ago when one landed on our occupied bluebird house, gave us quite a scare.
    We live in Southern Maryland.

  98. We, in Carlsbad California, are definitely seeing a hawk dive into our bird feeder area hanging from the Coral Tree. The hawk is different shades of gray. It’s very fast and aggressive, but so far unsuccessful in its attacks. We’ve fed little birds for years, but the appearance of the hawk is relatively recent (in the last 6 months). Any comment on the type of hawk?

    I even used to feed the crows, but had to stop to protect our Bearded Collies. One morning, as the crows were feeding, 2 very large and healthy coyotes came walking down the hill to check out the bread. They jumped a 6-ft. fence to inspect whatever brought about 20 crows to our yard.

    Thank you for your very informative and interesting article that made us realize we’re experiencing things others throughout our country are.

  99. I have seen several peregrine falcons in my yard in Charleston, WV. I can always tell when something is wrong by the urgent calls from the other birds in my yard. I look outside to see what has caused the ruckus. I immediately go outside and clap my hands to get them out of my yard.

  100. We’ve seen more hawks and Barred Owls as well at our feeders. In fact for the past two years hawks have nested in two White Pine trees in our yard where we have lived for over thirty years with only occasional sightings. These last few months I haven’t seen many cardinals though we had several during the summer. Do hawks prey on the larger birds rather than finches, chickadees and nuthatches?

    1. Hi Cynthia,
      Thanks for your question. As far as the size of bird that hawks eat, it really depends on the hawk species. The Coopers hawks in my neighborhood tend to hunt California quail, which are fairly large birds. I have seen them hunt sparrows as well. Red-tailed hawks focus on squirrels and rodents. Some species do hunt smaller birds. The lack of cardinals could be due to a number of factors including disease. They often bounce back so I bet you will see them return. Matt

  101. Cooper’s are a regular in our back yard now and seen frequently swooping low over fences in our suburban neighborhood. Our small sample indicates that they are more common now than just a few years ago.

  102. Hello! I have a backyard bird feeder in San Luis Obispo, California. The Cooper’s Hawk has appeared here this winter! The frequent visits are new at my feeder! I attribute the appearance to the fact that acres of uncultivated fields close to the mobile home park where I live were recently developed into dense housing tracts. I’m sure the former hunting grounds were full of ground squirrels, mice, rabbits, quail, lizards, snakes, and gophers. Quail have appeared here and the hawk! It’s exciting to witness the hawk in such close proximity, when it’s diving into the birds’ hide out bushes, perching on the fence, on the railing of my porch, sitting on the neighbor’s roof, or generally flying through the neighborhood. Sometimes I sit with my binoculars and stare at the beauty of the hawk as it sits on the fence in close range.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Pam. Bald eagles have definitely become a more frequent sighting in many parts of the country. (I see them flying over my backyard, too!). It is a great conservation success story.

  103. Your article is most interesting. A few years ago I watch a sharp shinned hawk spend about 30 minutes in pursuit of the chickadees, and tufted titmice in our tri-colored beech tree. He or she went away hungry. We also have a nesting pair of red tailed hawks at the end of our street. They make quite a few passes by the feeders and I find several scattered mourning dove feathers in the yard from time to time.

  104. Your observations surely seem to fit with what we are seeing here in Champaign , IL. A Cooper’s hawk has dismembered a pigeon while sitting on our swing and left the bones picked clean. We see the hawk fairly often as it swoops in to grab songbirds very close to our dining room windows.

  105. Thanks for confirming my suspicions that the weekly visit of a pair of coopers hawks to my feeders, as well as increased regular sightings of Red shoulder hawks, Red tail hawks, occasional Sharpie or Merlin etc in suburban and urban areas has increased over the past thirty years. Enjoy your articles!

  106. A very large hawk landed in our cherry tree on our front lawn several weeks ago. Unfortunately, I do not know the specific type, although I did take a picture of it. We live in a typical suburban development in Rochester, NY. This is only the second time we have seen a hawk in our yard in the thirty some years we have lived here. The other one landed high up in the ash trees of our back yard a number of years ago. It was fascinating to read above article about increasing number of hawks in urban environments. For many years, we have seen hawks perching on the lamp posts along the superhighway that goes around Rochester and all its’ suburbs.

  107. Several years ago, from ’95-’02, we lived in the Ahwatukee area of Phoenix, AZ. I had bird feeders and a bird bath in my backyard.
    The first winter I noticed a Coopers Hawk in the bird bath. It came every day to bathe. (Once I timed how long it stayed. 1 1/2 hours!) That hawk returned every winter for 7 years. I never once saw it take a bird from my yard, but they did make themselves scarce when it was there. I loved having it there.

  108. We the hawks in our western Chicago suburb. It’s not all that unusual to see one perched on my lawn furniture, as I did the other day. I’m not sure if they’re Cooper or red tail, but they are beautiful. And yes, I do have several feeders in my yard.

  109. In November, a hawk landed on my deck in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. After I Googled and identified him as a broad winged hawk, I read that he is a migrator and this was out of season. So was he lost, or did he overstay because of the good pickings? First time I’ve seen this, although other Chicago friends have had hawks at their bird feeders too.

  110. Last July, as we were enjoying the many hummingbirds at our feeders on our front porch at our ranch in Texas, they all quickly scattered except one. That one hummer was stunned and knocked to the ground by a Cooper’s Hawk swooping in, as it flew off the feeder. The Cooper’s Hawk then picked it up and flew off. Not long afterwards, we saw a Cooper’s Hawk in a tree nearby watching, and he then flew in again to repeat his “hunting”. We were appalled yet excited. We realized we created a trap where the hummers were “sitting ducks” and being “picked off”, and that made us sad. But we were enthralled as well, because it was very cool to see the hawk do what he does naturally in nature, which is hunt. Even though we were very glad to witness nature at its best, after the second loss of our little friends, we did take down the feeders. We will resume again this summer, however!

  111. Hello Mr. Miller,

    Thanks for an interesting and well informed article. One element which I thought would have been interesting to discuss is the question of how to resolve the conflict at the bird feeder, beyond the explanation why it has developed. At least in my backyard, in Atlanta, Georgia, that has become a really big question: do I attract all of my nice variety of birds to keep the hawks coming and moving into my backyard or do I stop feeding to prevent the hawks from decimating the backyard bird population – and it is not just sparrows? How to strike a balance and what to do from a researchers point of view – that is the question.
    Thanks, Klaus

    1. Hi Klaus,
      Thanks for your comment. I know that many backyard bird feeding enthusiasts have similar questions. I think a lot of this is a personal choice, but I’ll offer one perspective. The backyards of urban and suburban areas are an ecosystem. There are predator-prey interactions there just as in a “wilder” ecosystem. Predators play an important role. The abundant bird feed and backyard habitat actually creates abundant populations of many bird species. The hawks feed on that abundance. I have not seen any evidence that they decimate songbird populations, especially not on any larger level. That said, my neighborhood birds use the abundance of cover (shrubs, hedges, etc) to evade hawks. Not all do, but it certainly protects most of the birds. Our front yard consists largely of native vegetation, which the birds and other wildlife really use. Thanks for writing. Matt

  112. Great article. A Cooper’s Hawk has exploded from the bougainvillea in my front yard exactly as you described, on more than one occasion, except it typically leaves with a sparrow in it’s talons. The first time I witnessed it I was amazed given that I live in downtown San Diego.

  113. There is a Coopers Hawk that patrols my neighborhood. I have seen him take a mourning dove and another bird. He has also drank and cleaned up in my bird bath. Red Tailed Hawks are also seen regularly in our neighborhood. We have seen them take two squirrels and three sea gulls.

  114. Makes a lot of sense
    I had thought that the recent influx of Cooper’s Hawks in our neighborhood was due to a very steady supply of squirrels.
    The squirrels consume a large percentage of the seed we put out for the birds!

  115. I have a tree cylinder feeder in front and a trap door feeder in back and even with 7 or 8 inches , I don’t see as many sparrows asI used to . I see some nuthatches , juncos, chickadees , occasional red breasted woodpecker , and cardinals . The small ones go from my evergreen bushes and the feeders ,they are very watchful and nervous . l’m suspecting our smaller hawks we have in this area , once I saw a Peregrine Falcon , Great Horned Owl and a Red Tailed Hawk . Seems there are less sparrows and smaller birds here too !

  116. I would enjoy having citation information for the article that’s mentioned. I would like to read it for myself.


  118. I was just thinking that I have seen at least one daily for the past few months here in the DC burbs of Maryland! Thank you for the article!

  119. I am having more hawk sightings since the vegetation has been stripped down due to H.M. Hurricane, just realized that could look like her majesty. My city was a tree city, we had huge numbers of white oak 50 plus years old and the winters are mild 30 degrees North lat. Your article caught my eye and was wondering if these hawks would migrate from here. Not sure of the type, Jacksonville 300 miles east have hawks year round.

  120. I had a beautiful hawk in my backyard for a couple of days at the end of December 2018. Didn’t get a good photo but, it was amazing to see up close..

  121. We have several Coopers hawks that we’ve seen off and on in our back yard in Mt Wolf, York Country, PA. We have a bird feeder and have seen two occasions when they have captured doves. On one occasions two of them circles above me coming ever closer when I was standing in the backyard. We live in a large subdivision right on the edge of agrarian areas, mostly corn fields. We moved the feeder closer to the five large leyland cypress trees we planted six years ago. They seem to provide some shelter for the birds. Seeing a hawk take a bird is not something I like to see but I do understand that they have a right to hunt and survive. Good news that they have made a comeback.

  122. Excellent article! A week ago I saw a red-shouldered hawk perched on a fence close to our backyard feeder. It was the first time to see one in the back yard!

  123. Very interesting. I live in Denver and put up a feeder about 2 months ago. I’ve had very, very few customers and have been wondering why. Likely a combination of a mild winter (abundant natural forage) and increased presence of predators.

    Have also noticed a conspicuous absence of sparrows. That is a new thing. In other years, you’re feeding about 30 sparrows for every house finch or chickadee.

    Welcome back, hawks. Just leave the songbirds alone.

  124. I have to be careful concerning any Hawks I have two small dogs. Hawks around are not a pretty site for me.

  125. I had not noticed an increase is predatory birds until last week a Coopers Hawk hit my kitchen window which looks out to a bird feeder. Sadly he didn’t live. (FYI he is now with the game warden). I also noticed an Osprey for the first time a couple of weeks ago at my pond eyeing my ducks. Thank you for a well written, very relevant article.

  126. Great news that they feed primarily on the doves, starlings and sparrows, but we’ve noted that the occasional woodpecker and flicker are victims. This is heartbreaking but I guess not all that surprising. And those woodpeckers, I imagine are not endangered. We don’t live in an urban area- more rural here and one of the many joys of bird feeding here is the abundance and variety of birds that visit.

  127. We live west of Cleveland, Ohio and a mile and a half from Lake Erie. Our property is surrounded by a city park of which the land beside ours and behind ours is wooded. Several years ago a pair of bald eagles began nesting at an elementary school nearby. The school set up a web camera so they could be observed. At our house, we feed the birds everyday in the winter but not during the summer. We are pretty sure we have seen a Merlin here but any attempt to take a photograph and he is off, a very wary bird. This year we have a red-tailed hawk who has taken up residency in the woods just a few feet from the bird feeders. It is quite apparent when he is nearby as all the small birds vanish from the feeders. I have scared him away unintentionally when I make a trip to our composter at the edge of the woods. What has surprised me is that he is on the ground, not in the trees. We have many sparrows and doves at the feeders so no wonder a hawk has taken up residence. Thank you for the wonderful article.

  128. Great article. Is there any research showing changes in migratory routes due to abundance of roadkill? I am writing a novel with that as a theme.

  129. Yes we’ve had hawks ate bird feeder . We live on ten acres of woods seven miles outside town. I chase them away all the time. About six years ago they killed one of my wood ducks.

  130. I have a neighborhood sharpshinned hawk. He/she was taking mourning doves at my feeder. I had to move the ground feeder to a spot beneath a shrub to make the doves less vulnerable. It worked well in the summer. With the leaves off in the winter, the hawk has managed to have a little success. Still, much less than previously.

  131. I regularly see a red shouldered hawk checking out our feeders. Sometimes we find strike sites in the yard.

  132. We have noticed a few Coopers Hawks and Swanson’s hunting in our suburbs on the west side of greater Cleveland the last decade or so.
    It’s always a treat to see them up close!
    Bud Riser
    Westlake, OH

  133. We’ve been enjoying a beautiful red shouldered hawk who has been arriving about 7:30 every morning for the last several days. He? has even picked up food scraps off the ground left out for the crows, sat on a low stone wall holding the food in his feet and tearing it apart.
    We are in central Mass and have plenty of woods around our area but also bird feeders.
    Last summer and into fall we had two red tail hawks. They are our usual visitor.
    A crew working on gas lines in the area would stop their work to watch them circle overhead or perch on a rooftop or tree.
    We just love seeing these beautiful birds.

  134. January 29, 2019
    Today and yesterday I watched a red-shouldered hawk swoop down over my fishpond and head towards the bird feeder.
    He was unsuccessful due to the large amount of trees and shrubs close to the feeder and the daylight sky was behind him.
    I live in suburban Virginia about 20 miles west of Washington DC which has heavy traffic and medium subdivision density. But luckily behind my half acre There is an approximate 20+ acre forest and small open plain of about 2 acres which leads down to a small stream that meanders through several subdivisions for miles. This area contains much wildlife of everything from red foxes, raccoons , skunks squirrels chipmunks to white tail deer. I would not be surprised if we also have coyotes. Three years ago a mother black bear and her cub were spotted and moved to more rural parts of the state by a combination of state police, forest rangers and other wildlife management officials. I feel fortunate to be able to enjoy so much wildlife but still live so close to the city.

  135. Thank you for this wonderful article. The comments are also interesting. We live in a small town in South Dakota and have had Coopers, Sharps and the occasional Red Tail in our backyard for at least 10 years. The hawks usually prey on the sparrows, collared doves and starlings (or so I tell myself!). We have spruce trees next to our feeders that offer good cover. We were curious why the hawks spent a lot of time soaking their feet in our pond and learned they do it to soften their talons and then sharpen them against the rocks. There has been an increase in their visits each year. It’s fun to watch our gutsy squirrels challenge them when they sit too close to the feeders.

  136. I have many hawks that visit my backyard, including red tails. I do feed the song birds all year long including suet feeders in the winter. I love watching the birds and other wildlife that visit.

  137. Thoroughly enjoyed this article, I have Cooper’s Hawk’s in my suburban yard every summer for the past several years I live in a suburb of Chicago. I do have birdfeeders in my yard.

  138. Thank you for this great article. It used to be that I would see these birds on rare occasions in the city, but now they are frequent visitors at my feeders , and I enjoyed hearing about their adapting to urban habitats. These beautiful birds get blamed for killing songbirds etc…. and they do eat no doubt. But alley cats have always been the main problem . Not the raptors. Thank you.

  139. So is this why I have zero birds at my feeder this year? I’ve done a thorough cleaning, changed the seed (twice), and still no birds despite cold temperatures. Have not spotted any hawks either.

  140. I live in central Houston and we have a yearly pair of cooper’s hawks that nest in out front trees. we also have a pair of red-shouldered hawks in a big oak in the yard behind us. I noticed that the cooper’s feed mostly on abundant white-winged doves with a few other species of songbirds mixed in. The re-shouldered hawks really like to go after the countless squirrels.

  141. We lived in the city limits of Richmond and had a pair that had a nest and lived in trees above our home. What a treat to see these magnificent birds!

  142. So interesting!! Just saw a Cooper’s Hawk in my backyard tree two days ago. Although we have a lot of hawks on Staten Island, I have never seen one at my house. It was exciting. He was there for about 1 1/2 hours and barely moved.

  143. Yes, for the last several years Cooper’s Hawks have come hunting/perching in view of bird feeders on back porch near the lake and a sanctuary in big city park.

  144. The article was marginally interesting until the part about how these raptors go after pigeons, i.e., flying rats. That caught my attention because I hate pigeons. To me and many urbanites, the value of hawks –like that of coyotes and feral cats–also lies in their appetite for other vermin of city life, like mice and rats.

    This is important because, here in Chicago, the city has been discouraging residents from having bird feeders for the simple reason that whatever chaff ends up on the ground draws and sustains the rat and mouse population. I’ve seen it. It’s disgusting.

    So rather than how hawks like to ambush sparrows and other songbirds, I’d be much more interested in your thoughts on how hawk re-colonization of urban areas could better be harnessed in keeping our streets and alleys–and homes–free of unwanted critters. Any research being done on that?

  145. I love the exciting and colorful hawks as much as anyone but the thought of attracting them with our feeders to kill our beloved songbirds, woodpeckers, wrens, juncos, chickadees, cardinals, and tufted titmice seems more than a little gruesome. I have already witnessed some bloody attacks, which I won’t describe here. But I know that is all part of nature, “red in tooth and claw”.

  146. In the past, I was literally shocked to see a raptor in my small backyard chasing a smallish songbird. The speed of flight across the yard, just 100 feet to a large holly bush, saw both prey and hawk disappear within. I wondered about the demise of the small bird and how such a large hawk could maneuver inside such a dense holly bush without injury? But, the speed of flight, the high rate of acceleration, were what amazed me that day…

  147. We have a high window in our “mid-century modern’ house in Davis, CA. A hawk, I assume a coopers, has hit that window, or appeared to chase a bird into it, at least twice while I watched. One time it picked up the stunned bird and left; today the dove survived and they both flew off. Is it possible that the hawk is using the window? It is now plastered with decals… I have seen what I assume to be this resident hawk eat prey on the same tree branch – once a rat, once a dove. Takes at least 20 minutes.

  148. This article certainly bears out what I have been witnessing for the last couple of years in my city (Albany, GA). I have photographed two Hawks within as many years feeding on their bird kill by my feeder and one other young Red Wing feeding on a squirrel on my front lawn a couple of years ago. What is amazing is that they continue to feed even when approached closely. Great if you are photographing them but coupled with ambivalent feelings for the birds (and squirrels) I feed. It is common to see four or more hawks circling our subdivision during the day.

  149. I’m on Long Island and I can absolutely verify (by subjective observation) the increase both in sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks in my neighborhood.

  150. I saw a hawk on a roof across the alley from my house. This is the first time i’ve seen one in the city. I also saw one by where I work which is about a half an hour away from my house. It was in a tree across the street and it was up in a tree, eating what looked like a pigeon. I was amazing to see. I live in Chicago.

  151. I live in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Within the span of one week I witnessed a red-shouldered hawk perched atop a tall oak in my yard, scanning for prey. Then he swooped down and within 40 minutes had caught and eaten two medium-sized snakes. Later in the week a red-tailed hawk did the same with a mourning dove.

  152. This morning I looked out my back yard window and saw a gorgeous Hawk sitting on my fountain. I have never seen one that close. What a thrill to see it. He was driving the other birds crazy, they were all trying to attack him. I looked the bird up and I believe it was a Cooper’s Hawk. What a Beautiful Bird. I live in Thousand Oaks, California

  153. I have a tray feeder in my back yard which attracts many types of birds, but I always have lots of doves. In the winter the Cooper’s and Sharp Shinned Hawks like to post nearby to grab the slow moving doves! But just last week, a burst of feathers caught my eye and what looked like a Red Tailed Hawk grabbed a dove. I later saw him perched on the iron fence. I live near a golf course in several Woodcreek areas so we see Red Tailed Hawk’s all the time, but not in my backyard usually! I love seeing these beautiful birds, and I don’t begrudge them dinner at my feeder. The doves are really a nuisance anyway, they hog all the birdseed and make a mess. What is especially entertaining is to watch the Blue Jays mimicking hawk calls to clear the feeder for themselves, pretty clever little guys .

  154. I have been an urban bird feeder. I live in So Cal. I noticed in the last couple of years more “sharp shinned hawks” have been attacking our sparrows in our trees, they also go for the turtle doves which I have seen multiply profusely thanks to my feeding them. Initially I chased the hawks away. They reminded of bully birds. But after reading this hugely informative add here I now realize that the birds I have been feeding are a huge part of others food chain. My question is: Do sharp shinned haws feed exclusively on other birds? – I have also theorized myself that the world is losing so many fruit trees, either through fires or people just not opting for them. Birds down in Mexico depend highly on all types of natural fruit trees which are also shrinking. I think we need to encourage humanity to plant more fruit trees and discourage FUMIGATION of highly toxic poisons.

  155. Bye Bye Birdie……or, can you say EXTINCTION? My granddaughter 15+ years ago as very young child loved watching chickadees, scores of them, as they flew about the feeders in her peach tree…….unfortunately the chickadee has not the trait of staying alive, they themselves became feeding stations for the predators on their way toward inflicting the mass extinctions to come.

    I saw them being slaughtered one day as one hawk kept picking them off, as popcorn… scores of them….. we rushed to take the feeders down as that hawk brushed past my face to snag another one… the bluejay and the cardinal still lives, but vastly reduced in numbers while the eggs of these become feed for the next generation of hawks come spring..

    Recognizing that continuing feeder attraction would crush lives of her beloved chickadees my granddaughter refused to replace feeders on her peach tree from that time forward, she refused to compromise what she loved…..five years old!

    Looking back I remember being furious at how audubon along with other wild bird fanatics stocked the entire USA with predators the entire late 20th century………what gave THEM the right!

  156. I’ve noticed that the behavior of Cooper’s Hawks and Red Tailed Hawks in the Saint Louis city and suburbs have converged. All of the old general studies give the general overview that the Red Tailed Hawk is primarily a predator of smaller mammals while the Cooper’s Hawk is primarily a predator of smaller birds. Of course this distinction was never recorded as an absolute. Over the last forty five years I have observed about a thousand instances where-in Red Tailed Hawks had killed small to medium sized birds, or where Cooper’s Hawks had killed mammals. The extremely abundant adult squirels and cotton-tailled rabits in Saint Louis city and suburbs are both a fierce and tough kill for Cooper’s Hawks. Yet I have seen many such kills over the years. In the case of the squirels, I’m pretty sure both male and female Cooper’s Hawks make the kills equally well. Because our rabbits are quite variable in their sizes, I can’t be sure the hawks are male or female. It’s my impression that the Cooper’s Hawks are more likely to kill rabbits than the Red Tailed Hawks. During the past forty five years in Saint Louis, the American Kestrels have gone from being the only abundant raptor to being locally extinct in most areas.
    I’m really pleased that today’s ecologists and conservationists are actively studying and thinking about our cities and sub-urbs.

  157. is it possible that a hawk would scare off a whole flock of house sparrows so that the house sparrows leave the neighborhood for days?

  158. Thanks for this! I’ve been seeing a raptor in our back yard here in Ottawa, Canada. I’ve NEVER seen any kind of bird like this in the city. We back onto some green space where there are tons of birds and this guy has been very active. My best guess based on photos and research is a Cooper’s hawk. Unsure why it’s here now but it has plenty of food.

  159. I live in Fresn California, live on regular street, about a week ago I saw 2 hawks on front lawn have not seen any while living here for 13 years, why all of sudden, maybe I have a bird feeder for small birds

  160. The hawks in the OKC area are mostly Missouri Kites, and they are noticeably fewer the past few weeks. Could that be because they are nesting? I see very few in the air and wondered if it was because of the hot weather.

  161. Matthew,
    Thanks for the interesting article. I find that the more citizens know about raptors, the more they appreciate their place in ecosystems. I point out that Cooper’s hawks and Sharp-shinned hawks may look somewhat similar but their size difference is immediately apparent. Sharpies are noticeably smaller than their close accipiter relative the Cooper’s! I spent 15 years doing bird rehab & have intimate knowledge (handling) of all hawk species including buteos, eagle, falco and, of course, accipiter.

  162. I’m so glad to understand why we have Cooper’s hawks visit regularly. They have almost become friendly. We’ve noticed they are very curious and they don’t seem to be startled when we come upon them. We live in a suburb on the north side of Indianapolis and have heard reports from several in the area about seeing Cooper’s hawks. I’ve had two very entertaining close encounters with them – one a young hawk who landed at my feet unexpectedly and the other a mature hawk pretending to be limp sitting on my windowsill. He was there for 30 minutes or so and I got worried about him. Called a hawk specialist and she said he’s probably pretending to be lame. Just positioning to surprise the birds. I watched from a foot away on the inside of the house, taking photos all the while, and finally he did fly to the top of the brick wall five feet away – where he had a birds eye view of our feeders just 10 feet away. Reading they might help solve our starling issue was a happy thought.

  163. Great article!
    We live near Athens Georgia and have swallow tailed kites that have roosted on our bird feeder. We have had around 40 kites lately in the adjacent pasture, marvelous bird to watch

  164. I live in N Carolina and have a bird feeder out all the time. There are many different kinds of birds visit it all year around. Lately there has been a Red Tailed Hawk hanging around. He is beautiful and very hungry, making a meal serving himself from the bird feeder. Kind of sad, but fascinating too.

  165. While setting on my front porch this morning, a red shouldered hawk landed on my porch railing. He flew to the ground and started looking up at the shrubs. I think he/she was looking to flush something out to eat.

  166. Hi, I worked as an Ornithologist for a while, first Cooper’s Hawk I saw was in the Shawnee Forest carrying a snake. A few years later started noticing them in every little town in the motel property or local park. Now they are Everywhere. We had a young pair of Red Shouldered Hawks move in 5 years ago, now hardly see any snakes. When they moved in the Cooper’s pair had to move down the street to the Pine Trees. Apparently the male perished, and the female found a new male, a bright blue one. My friend sent a picture of it, but it was too blurry. Both me and husband saw this bright blue Cooper’s Hawk male and he is something. Hopefully he is still alive and I can get a picture of this beauty. Then last year a pair of Great Horned Owls moved in. The Red Shouldered Hawks and Barred Owls had to scoot down the creek.