What’s With The Tail?

Last week a Cooper’s hawk was brought to Wildlife Services after she hit a window on a dairy farm. After its examination it was determined to be emaciated and a bit bloodied from the collision. She was given vitamins and a fluid diet to treat the emaciation.

Her size and coloring indicate that she is a first year female. When she matures, her coloring will transform completely, turning from the current brown and white to bluish-gray with an orange breast. Her eyes will turn from yellow to red.

You may be wondering why the bird’s tail looks a little funny in the photo. Our Cooper’s hawk is wearing a tail guard made out of stiff X-ray film and masking tape to protect her tail while she is in captivity. Not all raptors get this peculiar treatment during rehabilitation. Cooper’s hawks and other accipiters, such as northern goshawks and sharp-shinned hawks, have a reputation for being very high-strung in captivity, flapping around and banging their bodies into walls. To prevent this bird from harming herself, we’ve taken the precaution of protecting her long, narrow tail. Accipiters hunt smaller birds in forests, and are adapted for quick, darting flights between trees. If this Cooper’s hawk is to properly hunt again she will need that tail intact to stay agile for forest hunting.


  1. Meghan on February 3, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Very interesting!

  2. Anonymous on February 4, 2011 at 1:03 am

    Thats great you were able to help her…2 days ago a big hawk landed on a tree 15 feet from our house where all our bird feeders were…she looking for lunch, i believe it was a braod shouldered hawk, a beautiful rusty orange streaking all over the breast and brown back and head…it was pretty big and hung out for 30 mins. I was too afraid to move to get my camera..just majestic

  3. Anonymous on February 17, 2011 at 2:29 am

    I think it's great what you folks do!

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