Posted by: atowhee | December 16, 2016


This morning the ground here in McMinnville is largely snow-covered so the local birds gather near our feeders.  At least one local hunter is aware of that, and takes advantage.

As I was outside this morning when I heard the squeals and saw the rapid wingbeats as the Cooper’s Hawk flew to a hiding spot on the ground at the back of the garden. It was a first year bird.coopkill1coopkill2Here you can see how the Coop picked a secluded spot, beneath apple and cherry trees, fences on two sides, no clear view from above.  He didn’t want to be disturbed by the local gangs (Scrub-Jays and Crows).  After I got my pictures and left the Coop had his
The meal was fresh starling.  This starling species’ native territory is from Ireland eastward across Russia and as far south as Turkey.  Some political observers might claim that this was a patriotic all-American bird killing off at least one Russian interloper. I would note that it was Americans who brought the ancestor starlings here in the first place.  Like many immigrants over the years (including all my ancestors and the first humans across the Siberian Land Bridge) those ancestral starlings proved resilient, hard-working and adaptable…finally adapting all across North America.


All of the Coopers famous in American natural history had moved far beyond barrel making.  This hawk was named from William Cooper (1798-1864) who settled in New Jersey after studying natural history in Europe.  The bird was named by Charles Bonaparte (of those Bonapartes) who was aided by Cooper when Bonaparte came to North America.  This Cooper wrote few publications and only one on birds that we know of.  That was on the Evening Grosbeak, a new species collected by Henry Schoolcraft in Michigan and the dead birds were sent to Cooper in 1825.

William also made one other fascinating contribution to American ornithology.  In 1833 he shot a molting shorebird on Long Island.  Baird named it Cooper’s Sandpiper but no other specimen has ever been found.  It is similar to two birds collected in South America in 1982, Cox’s Sandpipers.  All three are likely hybrids. The Cooper specimen is still preserved at the Smithsonian.

Cooper’s son, James Graham Cooper (1830-1902), became a seminal western naturalist. J.G. collected molluscs and other western fauna before concentrating on California birds.  His book on California’s avifauna was the first ever published (1870) which he authored with Spencer Baird of the Smithsonian.  It was Baird who first got Cooper into the west as a surgeon on Pacific railroad surveys before the Civil War. Eventually Cooper settled into private medical practice in the Bay Area. He finally settled in Hayward in 1875.

J.G. was director of the California Academy of Sciences for awhile and the Copper Ornithological Club is named for him.

These Coopers are not closely related to the Cooperstown Coopers.




Coop after dining…and the leavingscoop-restsstarling-parts




  1. The Cox’s Sandpiper specimens were actually collected in Australia.

  2. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thanks, However
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  3. […] in groups from sleeping to eating to bathing.  This keeps them safer from predators– though I did find one eaten by a Cooper’s Hawk in our garden last month. They also share food discoveries rather than try to protect any find from other starlings.  They […]

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