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Part of the problem identifying which hawk was the "chicken hawk" is that 
for a long time many people did not know enough about hawks to discriminate 
between those which took chickens and those which did not take them.
When I started birding in 1947, farmers were still shooting lots of 
Red-tailed Hawks, and the National Audubon Society was still laboring 
mightily to educate the public that they, and most other hawks, were 
beneficial rodent eaters, not chicken eaters. Although the Migratory Bird 
Treaty was then thirty years old,  many people also did not know that hawks 
were protected. For many, all hawks were "chicken hawks."

 Part of the education process stressed that in most of the United States, 
Cooper's Hawk was the only one likely to take chickens. I don't believe 
Audubon ever went so far as to encourage people to shoot Cooper's Hawks, but 
those of us who were birders knew Cooper's Hawk was the real "chicken hawk."

Eventually, the message seems to have gotten through. Farmers stopped 
shooting Red-tailed Hawks, other buteos and Northern Harriers (then called 
"Marsh Hawks"). But for a time, they did not stop shooting Cooper's Hawks. 
As a result, Cooper's Hawk was a very uncommon bird when I moved to Missouri 
in 1972, mainly a migrant and/or winter visitor. Cooper's Hawks have 
increased tremendously since then, and we now find them nesting in cities 
like Kansas City, Independence and Blue Springs as well as much more widely 
elsewhere.

Peregrines, Merlins and Kestrels also subsist mainly on birds, but they were 
not "chicken hawks" because they were known, respectively, to birders and 
non-birders alike as "Duck Hawk," "Pigeon Hawk," and "Sparrow Hawk." Their 
names were changed mainly to protect them from people who think any hawk 
that takes birds deserves to be shot.

I would like to think that public education is responsible for the comeback 
of Cooper's Hawk, but the fact that most chickens moved indoors probably 
played a bigger part. When I was a young man, farms were a lot smaller than 
they are today; there were lots more of them,  and lots of people had 
chickens running around in the barnyard. Now most of the barnyards and 
chickens are gone. If a farmer raises chickens or eggs, it is done indoors 
in a long, low building.

Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
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