Exposure to environmental features early in life potentially can influence the kinds of places animals select to live later in life. We examined whether there is evidence that Cooper's hawks (Accipiter cooperii) hatched in an urban environment choose sites with features similar to their natal areas when they nest for the first time. The features we examined were the nest tree species and the level of development surrounding the nest tree. We banded nestling and fledgling Cooper's hawks in Tucson, Arizona, USA, from 1994 to 2004. We then monitored nests in Tucson to identify hawks that had been hatched in the city and eventually secured a breeding site. Percent cover of buildings around first breeding nests was not related to percent cover of buildings around natal nests for either sex. There was some evidence that being hatched in a particular tree species influenced choice of tree species at first breeding sites for males, but the influence was weak. In contrast, tree species in which first-time breeders built their nests, and the sites where the trees were located relative to development, were proportional to what was available in the Tucson metropolitan area. Our data suggest that natal experience played a limited role in nest-site selection by Cooper's hawks in Tucson for the features we examined. If learning occurred, it could have been for the general structure of natal sites. Thus, any small grove of large trees planted in Tucson could be used as a nest site by Cooper's hawks regardless of the level of development surrounding the nest.
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Vol. 71 • No. 1