Cooper’s hawks (Accipiter cooperii) are secretive woodland raptors that breed in the United States, southern Canada, and central Mexico. Cooper’s hawks are conspicuous visitors at hawk migration sites in fall, and it has been found that individuals essentially return to the same locality to breed in subsequent years, which perpetuates genetic differences between populations. Though morphological and behavioral differences have been documented across the species’ geographic range, there are currently no recognized subspecies of the Cooper’s hawk. Studying genetic diversity and population structure of the species will help us understand the genetic variability present, which is important for a species to survive over evolutionary time and in the face of anthropogenic changes to the environment. Similar population genetic and phylogeographic studies have been conducted on the closely related species Sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus) and Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) and have shown there is significant diversity between populations throughout the United States.
Graduate student Breanna Martinico and Dr. Joshua Hull propose to collect genetic samples from Cooper’s hawks banded at established hawk banding sites and from individuals presented to rehabilitation facilities to quantify the genetic diversity and structure of populations throughout the breeding range of the species.