Bird Identification – Cooper’s Hawk – Chicken Hawk – Big Blue Darter

Here is no ally of the farmer, but his foe, the most bold of all his robbers, a blood-thirsty villain that lives by plundering poultry yards, and tearing the warm flesh from the breasts of game and song birds, one of the few members of his generally useful tribe that deserves the punishment ignorantly meted out to his innocent relatives. Unhappily, it is perhaps the most common hawk in the greater part of the United States, and therefore does more harm than all the others. It is mentioned in this chapter that concerns the farmers’ allies, only because every child should know foe from friend.

The female Cooper’s hawk is about nineteen inches long and her mate a finger-length smaller, but not nearly so small as the little blue darter, the sharp-shinned hawk, only about a foot in length, but which it very closely resembles in plumage and villainy. Both species have slaty-gray upper parts with deep bars across their wings and ashy-gray tails. The latter differ in outline, however. Cooper’s hawk having a rounded tail with whitish tip, and the sharp-shinned hawk a square tail. In maturity Cooper’s hawk wears a blackish crown. Both species have white throats with dark streaks and the rest of their under parts are much barred with buff and white.

Instead of spending their time perching on lookouts, as the red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks do, these two reprobates dash after their victims on the wing, chasing them across open stretches where such swift, dexterous, dodging flyers are sure to overtake them. Or they will flash out of a clear sky like feathered lightning and boldly strike a chicken, though it be pecking corn near a farmer’s feet. These two marauders, and the big slate-coloured goshawk, also called the blue hen hawk or partridge hawk, stab their cruel talons though the vitals of more valuable poultry, song and game birds, than any child would care to read about.