Cooper’s Hawk Vs Goshawk

coopers hawk on car

The differences between Cooper’s Hawks and Goshawks are striking and noticeable in falconry. Cooper’s Hawks eat mainly small birds and mammals, while Goshawks often target larger prey like squirrels and rabbits. There are many visible distinctions, and some distinctions may refer to techniques or patterns. I will explain these differences and show you what sets these raptors apart from each other.

The difference between Cooper’s hawk and Goshawk


Cooper’s Hawks are known for their speed and agility in hunting small birds, such as sparrows, finches, and doves. Their sharp talons and strong grip allow them to capture their prey mid-air. In contrast, Goshawks have a broader diet that includes birds and larger mammals like squirrels and rabbits. They are powerful hunters with long legs and sharp claws that can take down prey almost twice their size.

Lifespan and health

In comparing the lifespan and health of Cooper’s hawks and goshawks in falconry, it is evident that their differing physiological characteristics contribute to distinct longevity and well-being patterns. Cooper’s hawks generally live around 12 years in captivity, while goshawks can reach up to 20 years. Health indicators such as plumage condition, weight maintenance, and energy levels are crucial in assessing their overall well-being.

Common diseases affecting these raptors include avian pox, aspergillosis, and West Nile virus, making preventive care through regular check-ups and vaccinations essential. As they age, providing senior hawk care becomes crucial to ensure they age gracefully. This includes monitoring their cognitive functions and adapting their environment to accommodate any physical limitations.

coopers hawk on post

Nutritional needs play a significant role in their health, with dietary supplements often necessary to ensure they receive all essential nutrients. Regular exercise benefits these birds by maintaining muscle tone and providing mental stimulation, contributing to their overall health and longevity in falconry.

Size and Shape

Comparing the size and shape of Cooper’s hawks and goshawks reveals distinct physical characteristics that set these two raptors apart in the avian world. When it comes to size comparison, goshawks are notably larger than Cooper’s hawks. Goshawks have longer wings, broader bodies, and larger overall proportions compared to Cooper’s hawks’ sleeker and more compact build. This difference in body proportions directly influences their hunting style.

The wing shape of these birds also plays a significant role in their flight and hunting techniques. Goshawks have broader and more rounded wings, which provide them with increased lift and maneuverability during high-speed pursuits. On the other hand, Cooper’s hawks have narrower and more pointed wings that allow for quick bursts of speed and agile movements through dense vegetation. These adaptations for flight showcase how each species has evolved to excel in their respective hunting environments.

To further illustrate these differences, let’s take a closer look at the distinct characteristics of Cooper’s hawks and goshawks:

Characteristic Cooper’s HawkGoshawk
Size comparisonSmallerLarger
Wing shapeNarrow and pointedBroad and rounded
Body proportionsSleek and compactBroad and robust

Tail Shape and Length

Let’s differentiate Cooper’s hawks and goshawks by examining their distinctive tail shapes and lengths. Cooper’s hawks typically have rounded tails, which aids in their exceptional maneuverability while hunting elusive prey in dense forests. In contrast, goshawks boast square-shaped tails that enhance their speed during high-speed chases in open spaces. The tail length also sets them apart, as Cooper’s hawks have shorter tails than the goshawks, providing quick turns and agile flight patterns.

When it comes to tail feathers, Cooper’s hawks exhibit banded patterns, which help in camouflaging against tree bark, allowing them to blend seamlessly into their surroundings while stalking prey. On the other hand, goshawks showcase barred tail feathers that serve more for hunting efficiency, aiding in precision strikes on their targets. These tail adaptations perfectly align with each bird’s unique hunting strategies, with Cooper’s hawks excelling in stealth and camouflage, while goshawks prioritize speed and accuracy in pursuit of their prey.

Flight Pattern

cooper hawk flying

During flight, Cooper’s hawks and goshawks exhibit distinct patterns that reflect their hunting strategies and environments.

  • Soaring vs. Diving: Cooper’s hawks are known for their swift, low-level flight with sudden bursts of speed to catch prey. On the other hand, goshawks prefer to soar at higher altitudes before diving down to surprise their target.
  • Agile Maneuvers: Cooper’s hawks showcase remarkable agility during flight, effortlessly maneuvering through dense foliage and urban landscapes. In contrast, goshawks display powerful and precise aerial movements, ideal for hunting in more open spaces.
  • Hovering Techniques: Cooper’s hawks rarely hover in one spot, instead opting for rapid flight patterns to chase down prey. Goshawks, however, can hover briefly in the air while assessing their surroundings before making a calculated move.
  • Gliding Abilities: Cooper’s hawks exhibit exceptional gliding capabilities, utilizing tail adjustments and wing positions for efficient glides. Goshawks rely more on active flapping interspersed with short glides, showcasing a balance between energy conservation and quick pursuit.

When observing these raptors in action, one can appreciate the balance between speed and precision each species has evolved to master in its unique hunting style.

Head and Neck Features

Distinctive features of the head and neck in Cooper’s hawks and goshawks provide key insights into their hunting techniques and ecological roles. Cooper’s hawks typically have dark red eyes, contrasting the bright red eyes of goshawks. The feather texture in Cooper’s hawks tends to be softer compared to the coarser feathers of goshawks.

Beak shape also differs, with goshawks possessing a more robust, hooked beak for tearing flesh, while Cooper’s hawks have a slimmer beak suited for smaller prey. Ear placement is another distinguishing factor, as goshawks have higher-set eyes and ears, aiding in their precise hunting ability.

Neck length and skull size vary as well; goshawks have longer necks and larger skulls than Cooper’s hawks, reflecting their strength and ability to take down larger prey. Posture and movement during hunting differ, with goshawks known for their stealthy approach and swift attacks, while Cooper’s hawks show more agility in tight spaces.

Legs and Feet

The legs and feet of Cooper’s hawks and goshawks display distinct adaptations reflecting their specialized hunting techniques and prey preferences.

  • Talon Strength, Hunting Success: Cooper’s hawks have relatively weaker talons compared to goshawks. This impacts their ability to catch and secure larger prey efficiently.
  • Perching Habits, Prey Capture: Goshawks tend to perch higher and swoop down on prey, utilizing their powerful talons to precisely capture animals. On the other hand, Cooper’s hawks rely more on agility in flight to catch prey on the wing.
  • Gripping Ability, Agility in Flight: Goshawks possess strong gripping abilities due to their larger talons, enabling them to maintain a firm hold on struggling prey and enhance their agility during flight maneuvers.
  • Talon Size, Impact on Hunting: The larger talons of goshawks enable them to take down larger prey items compared to Cooper’s hawks, influencing their hunting strategies and success rates.

Furthermore, when considering leg length, goshawks typically have longer legs, aiding them in achieving higher speeds during pursuits, while Cooper’s hawks rely more on maneuverability and agility in dense vegetation for successful hunting endeavors.

coopers hawk on post

Coloration and Markings

With their striking differences in coloration and markings, distinguishing between Cooper’s hawk and a goshawk is relevantly straightforward. Comparing the two species, one can observe distinct variations in their plumage patterns and feather colors. The Cooper’s hawk typically displays a dark gray back and cap, contrasting with its light underparts streaked with rust-colored bars. In contrast, the Goshawk boasts a more uniform gray upper body and white underparts with fine gray barring.

Moreover, the wing markings serve as key distinguishing features. The Cooper’s hawk exhibits rounded wingtips and a notable dark band on the tail tip, while the Goshawk’s wings are broader with a prominent white “eyebrow” stripe above its piercing red eyes. These intricate differences in coloration, plumage patterns, and wing markings offer valuable insights for identifying and appreciating these magnificent raptors in the wild.

Hunting techniques

When comparing the hunting techniques of Cooper’s hawk and a goshawk, one can observe significant differences in their approaches to capturing prey in the wild. The Cooper’s hawk tends to rely on stealthy attacks and ambush hunting tactics to surprise its prey. On the other hand, the Goshawk is known for its high-speed pursuit technique, chasing down prey with incredible agility and speed.

Additionally, goshawks are masters of camouflage strategies, using their surroundings to blend in and get closer to their target unnoticed. In contrast, Cooper’s hawks are experts in precision strikes, swiftly swooping in on their prey with accuracy and skill. These contrasting hunting styles highlight the unique adaptations and behaviors that have evolved in each species to maximize their hunting success in their respective habitats.

Do falconers prefer Cooper’s Hawk or Goshawk?

Falconers typically prefer the Cooper’s Hawk over the Goshawk due to its agility and ease of training. When it comes to training methods, Cooper’s Hawks tend to be more responsive and adaptable, making them easier for falconers to work with. The equipment needed for Cooper’s Hawks is similar to that of Goshawks, including jesses, leashes, and hoods. However, Cooper’s Hawks may require slightly lighter gear due to their smaller size. Cooper’s Hawks’ housing requirements are similar to those for Goshawks, who need spacious mews or aviaries for exercise and perching.

The bonding process with Cooper’s Hawk involves consistent training and positive reinforcement to build trust and a strong relationship. Falconers often find that Cooper’s Hawks bond well with them, becoming reliable hunting partners. In terms of hunting success rates, Cooper’s Hawks are known for their speed and maneuverability, making them adept at catching small game. Overall, the agility, ease of training, and hunting prowess of the Cooper’s Hawk make it a popular choice among falconers.

Are Cooper’s Hawk or Goshawk better for beginners?

For beginners in the art of falconry, choosing between a Cooper’s Hawk and a Goshawk can be a crucial decision that impacts their learning journey. When considering which bird is better suited for novices, several factors must be taken into account:

  • Training methods: Cooper’s Hawks are known to be more tolerant of mistakes during training, making them slightly more forgiving for beginners compared to the more demanding Goshawks.
  • Housing requirements: Both species require spacious aviaries with perches, but Goshawks generally need larger enclosures due to their larger size and more active nature.
  • Behavioral characteristics: Cooper’s Hawks are often described as more sociable and adaptable, which can make them easier for beginners to handle and train compared to the more solitary and intense Goshawks.
  • Equipment needs: Goshawks, being larger and more powerful, may require sturdier equipment, such as gloves and leashes, compared to the equipment suitable for Cooper’s Hawks.

When it comes to the bonding process, both birds can form strong connections with their handlers, but Cooper’s Hawks may establish this bond more readily due to their generally more docile nature.

After comparing the Cooper’s hawk and Goshawk, it is clear that both birds have their own unique characteristics and strengths. While some falconers may prefer one over the other, the choice ultimately depends on individual preferences and experience level. Both birds can be suitable for beginners, but it is important to do thorough research and seek guidance from experienced falconers before deciding. Ultimately, both the Cooper’s hawk and Goshawk are impressive birds of prey with their own distinct qualities.


Welcome to my falconry website! My name is Richard, and I have been practising the art of Falconry for over 15 years. My fascination with birds of prey began at a young age when I visited a falconry sanctuary as a kid. The experience was truly captivating, and from that moment on, I knew I wanted to learn more about these majestic birds. So my dad and I started to adventure towards the possibility of one-day becoming falconers, and that's how my journey in Falconry began. I find birds of prey to be remarkable at hunting prey. Their strength, speed, and intelligence are truly remarkable, and I've always been fascinated by the relationship between a falconer and their bird. The first bird I started my falconry journey with was a Harris Hawk, as I knew these were the easiest birds to start with. Unfortunately, I lost my Harris Hawk during the early days of training, which was devastating. However, this loss only made me want to try harder and do better in perfecting the art of Falconry to ensure I never lose a bird. Over the years, I have mentored many apprentice falconers and shared my knowledge and skills along the way. I have experience with a variety of birds, including different species of Hawks, Falcons, and Owls. Although my Best choice of bird to hunt with has always been my Peregrine falcon Jules. I have also worked with many experienced falconers and bird trainers, greatly expanding my knowledge and skill set while observing and learning. Unfortunately, due to a lack of information on the web, I struggled to find what I needed when I started in Falconry. Thus, I created this website to make learning about Falconry easier and faster for those interested. Now with the information and experience, I will provide throughout this site, understanding Falconry should be much easier than when I started out.

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