|Species: Sharp-shinned Hawk
are the smallest North American Hawks and hunt almost strictly
birds, though they will sometimes take small mammals. Like the two
other North America accipiter species, Cooper’s Hawk and Goshawk,
they spend most of their time hunting in woodlots and forests where
their stout wings, long slender legs and tail and keen eye-site help
them sneak up on unsuspecting song birds.
These hawks breed
north to Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories just south
of the Beaufort Sea and South to the Caribbean. They winter across
most of the USA and Central America and North to Southern Alaska.
Because of their wide range and adaptability they are one of the
more common North American Hawks.
These hawks are small and slender with stout wings, thin legs and a
long tail. They are smaller than Cooper’s Hawk with a squarer tail
and shorter neck and hold their carpel joints farther forward when
they fly so that their heads are in line with or farther back than
the leading edge of their wings. Males are much smaller than
Adults are blue backed, with rusty red barring on breast and belly.
They have a dark cap with a bright red or orange eye and dark blue
bands on their bands and tail.
individuals are brown backed with course brown streaking on their
breasts and underneath their wings. They have dark brown bands on
their tail and a yellowish iris.
Cooper’s Hawks have a more rounded tail along with a broader white
tip to their tail feathers. Their head projects farther in front of
their wings in flight and have substantially thicker legs. Though
size is not always reliable, Cooper’s Hawks are substantially
larger. Merlins are substantially darker and have slender pointed
Sharp-shinned Hawks hunt on the wing, flying through thickets or
bellow the horizon to surprise their pray. They are often perched
part way up large trees in an erect position. They are not often
seen perched on telephone poles, electrical wires, or at the top of
trees like other hawk species, but instead spend their time lower
down in trees and bushes to avoid being see by their pray or larger
These hawks can be found hunting in many different habitats:
Woodlots, city parks, coniferous forests, deciduous forests, farm
land, riverbanks, tropical rainforests, and many other suitable
areas that can supply them with enough songbirds to survive.
Hawk is a small, scrappy, compact raptor. Anything that wears
feathers and is in the bantamweight class is eligible as prey.
Although the hawks may take prey as large as Common Flickers, they
usually prefer passerines the size of warblers and finches. In the
hunting mode, the Sharpy maneuvers deftly through woodlands,
following the contours of hedgerows and moving quickly in and out of
breaks in the foliage as it searches for prey.
This hawk was once called a “harmful” species because it eats the
small “beneficial” songbirds, but ecologists know now that the
Sharp-shinned can take some of the surplus of small birds as they
have always done.
The nest is built of sticks, twigs, lined with strips of bark, about
2ft across in crotch or on branch next to trunk, usually in conifer
10-60ft high. A new nest is usually built each year. Occasionally
uses old crow or squirrel nests adding fresh material. 4-5 white,
botched with browns eggs.
status: (Least concern)
populations appear to be stable and have increased since the ban on
DDT and other pesticides. The increase in back yard feeders may have
also contributed to their healthy populations in cities and rural
areas, because of the concentration of easily accessible food. One
of the only serious threats to these birds is the loss of breeding
habitat because of deforestation.
Sharp-shinned Hawk capture occurs during migration when it
forages in the open woodlands, wood edges and surrounding
residential areas of the Colony Farm banding station. These
raptors are not caught during the breeding season (June and
July) as they breed deep in large stands of deciduous,
conifer and mixed pine woodlands. However, capture rates
(2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net
hours) peak during the fall and winter corresponding to