Monday, December 24, 2012

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

The Sharp-Shinned Hawk is the smallest of the accipiters (bird eating hawks with short round wings).

This is an juvenile Sharp-Shinned Hawk dining on a pigeon.  This youngster will attain his adult plumage this spring/summer after he goes through his first annual molt.  Thus, when his feathers grow in they will be grown-up feathers.  Instead of brown, his back will be blue gray, instead of brown markings on his chest, he will have reddish markings.  His youthful yellow eyes will give way to mature red.

Some Sharp-Shinned Hawk Facts

- diet:  small birds, small mammals

- length:  12-14 inches

-  the female is larger than the male

-  habitat:  wooded areas

-  range:  throughout North America

-  incubation:  30-32 days

-  nestling  21-28 days

- fledgling:  30-40 days

-  broods per year:  1

Not a great deal is known about the mating habits of the Sharp-Shinned Hawk.  How do they chose mates?  Do they mate for life?  What are their courtship rituals?  Because this Hawk is secretive and shy about being watched, we have limited information. 

Here's some stuff we do know.  Sharp-Shinned Hawks make nests in evergreen trees 15-60 feet about the  ground.  The nests are made of twigs and lined with thin twigs and flakes of bark.  Nests are 20-25 inches in diameter and 5-7 inches deep.  The nests are located approximately 2 miles distance from other Sharp-Shinned nests.  The female does all the incubating of the 4-5 white to bluish white eggs.  The male feeds her while she is on the nest.  When the young are born, both parents feed them.  After the young leave the nest they hang around for a few weeks.  During this time the parents still feed them, though not enough to sustain them.  The youngsters hone their hunting skills by practicing on bugs.  Eventually they learn to catch bigger prey, such as songbirds.

An interesting habit of the Sharp-Shinned Hawk is that they pluck the feathers from their catch before they eat it.  Most other raptors simply dig in to the flesh through the feathers.

Sharp-Shinned Hawks have short wingspans which enables them to maneuver around and among trees. This agility helps them hunt in densely wooded areas.

Listen to the voice of a Sharp-Shinned Hawk and see some pictures. 


  1. I love all birds...but this guy needs his but kicked for eating other birds!

  2. Definitely a distinctive looking fellow!