Patient of the Week: Dozens of Young Cooper’s Hawks Reunited With Their Families After Historic Heatwave

By Ashley Lema, Wildlife Rehabilitator

Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Wildlife Care Center, as well as other wildlife rehabilitation facilities in our region, received large numbers of healthy fledgling Cooper’s Hawks at the end of June/beginning of July. Although most of these birds were old enough to be out of their nest, the record-high temperatures (116 degrees) may have rushed them to all fledge at once, leaving many young raptors on the ground, and out in the open causing people to grow concerned.

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk perched on leafy branch looking off
A handsome Cooper’s Hawk fledgling perched in a tree, looking around inquisitively. Photo by Fern Wexler.

If you see a baby bird on the ground it’s important not to assume they’re injured. During this time of year, a lot of young birds (especially raptors) are leaving their nests. At this stage in a bird’s life, they are able to flutter, hop, and climb back up to their nests, but will end up on the ground or on low bushes and branches often as they practice and build their muscles while learning how to fly! Even though they may seem vulnerable on the ground for a few days (or even a week), their parents are still looking after them. It’s imperative that we do not interfere with this natural process, or take a young bird from the nurturing care of their parents. 

A Cooper’s Hawk fledgling sitting back up in the same tree they were nesting in.

Fledglings will of course be more susceptible to predators at this stage of their life, but this does not mean they need rescuing. Life in the wild is inherently dangerous. In order to survive in the wild, young birds need to learn to evade natural predators and overcome obstacles on their own. However, humans and our domestic animals add to these risks, and are not considered natural predators. It is our responsibility to keep cats, dogs, and children away from wild animals to give them the space they need for their best chance of survival. Occasionally, like all adolescents, fledglings will get themselves into some trouble. A misstep into a window well, or a crash landing onto the concrete can leave people very afraid for the animals safety. You may move them to a safe location, like a brushy/bushy area, into the shade, or up off the ground, onto a branch, but please don’t kidnap them. If they are healthy, their best chance at survival is to be cared for by their parents in the wild.

Thanks to many willing rescuers and amazing volunteers, we’ve been able to reunite dozens of young Cooper’s Hawks with their (likely worried) families! We released as many as we could, but about twenty Cooper’s Hawk’s had to remain in our care. They are all in a large outdoor flight enclosure where they can practice normal behaviors, free of human activity, except for necessary feeding and cleaning. Once they are old enough to survive on their own, they will be released back into the wild.

Cooper’s Hawks are small raptors with rounded wings, long rounded tails, and lanky yellow legs. Although they are just under the size of an American Crow, they are incredibly quick and powerful hunters. Cooper’s Hawks mainly eat medium-sized birds, like jays, robins, and pigeons. They weave through dense tree canopies at top speed in pursuit of their prey. They will also sometimes hang out near bird feeders, looking for an easy meal. Cooper’s Hawks are common in our region and can successfully raise their chicks in urban and suburban settings, but forests and woodlands are their main habitat, typically around tall trees with openings or edge habitat nearby.

Juvenile Cooper’s Hawks are brown from above, with white underparts, streaked vertically with brown. Adult Cooper’s Hawks are a beautiful steely blue-gray from above, with a dark cap and pale cheek, warm reddish bars on their underparts, and thick dark bands on the tail, with a narrow whitish band at the tip. As a juvenile, they have yellow eyes that grow red as they become adults. With their smaller lookalike, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawks make for famously tricky identification!

How To Help Wildlife

  • Become familiar with what a fledgling bird looks like! Your local wildlife rehabilitator and the animal’s parents will be happy to have one less family to reunite if we don’t accidentally separate them in the first place.
  • Create habitat for your local wildlife. Consider adding a water feature such as a sprinkler, bird bath, or rock garden. Working to make your backyard a safe and shady haven for animals is really the best thing you can do for all native species as conditions grow hotter. 
  • Take action to protect this planet and all who inhabit it!  These animals are amazing and resilient, but climate change is making it harder for them to thrive. Read about this incredible mother persevering.

What to Do If You Find An Ill, Injured or Orphaned Animal 

  • If an animal is visibly ill or injured, has been in contact with a cat, or is definitely orphaned, the best thing you can do is contain the animal in a securely closed (but ventilated) box and keep the animal quiet and undisturbed until you can transport it to your closest wildlife rehabilitation facility.
A new young birder looking at the Cooper’s Hawk fledgling up in their tree. We even spotted an Anna’s Hummingbird that came to check out the young raptor!

Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Wildlife Care Center accepts new patients from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day. You can also leave a message on our Wildlife Hotline at (503) 292-0304 or email and one of our wildlife solutions counselors will get back to you and provide advice for your specific situation.


We’re building a new Wildlife Care Center and need your help! If you would like to help injured and orphaned wildlife, please consider joining our crowdfunding campaign and making a gift to make this new facility a reality. We’re doubling the square footage, adding a surgical suite, and making many more important changes to provide the best care for our patients. Learn more at ForPortlandBird Alliance of