Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Details About The Sharp-shinned Hawk

  • General Information

    The small Sharp-shinned Hawk has the typical short round wings and long tail of the accipiters. It can be distinguished from the Cooper's Hawk by its small size and the squared-off shape of the tip of its tail. Its eye is placed in the center of the rounded head. In flight, the small head barely projects beyond the leading edge of the wings.

    Latin Name: Accipiter striatus
    Class: Aves
    Order: Falconiformes
    Family: Accipitridae
    Length: 9-13 inches
    Weight: 3-8 ounces
    Wingspan: 20-26 inches
    Common Name: Little Blue Darter, Sharpy, Bird Hawk
    Etymology: accipiter (Latin) - "birds of prey"; striatus (Latin) - "striped," refers to underparts of immature wing

  • Flight, Voice & Habitat

    The Sharp-shinned Hawk has a typical flight pattern for accipiters: flap, flap, glide - flap, flap, glide.

    This species alarm notes kik-kik-kik-kik. The male is often 2 notes higher than the female. It also has been described as wailing - keeeeps.

    During breeding season, the Sharp-shinned Hawk stays in forest canopy unless displaying. Cooper's Hawks are seen in increasing numbers while Sharp-shins are declining due to habitat. Cooper's will nest in fragmented woodlands, while Sharp-shinned won't.

  • Nesting

    The Sharpy seems to prefer coniferous trees located in groves of deciduous trees. They will return to nest locations, but they do not reuse old nests. This species lays 2 to 6 eggs; the female is the primary incubator, while the male provides food. Incubation averages 30 to 35 days, and the young fledge in 21 to 27 days.

  • Distribution

    Sharp-shinned Hawks are found in woodlands throughout most of North and Central America, more northern than Cooper's Hawks. Northern birds are migratory, with young females, then males going before older females and males.

  • Food

    The Sharp-shinned Hawk hunts with two different techniques: still-hunting from inconspicuous perches or fast darts through woodlands, flushing startled birds. Sharp-shins specialize in catching small birds, small mammals, lizards, frogs, and insects.

  • Current Resident Birds

    Lenior, North Carolina, native, Ah Yoka is a Sharp-shinned Hawk, which is often mistaken for a Cooper's Hawk, as they are very similar in size and color. "Sharpies" get their name because of their thin “shins” or legs. Unlike most hawks, their diet consists mainly of other birds, sometimes supplementing with small mammals, lizards, and insects. AhYoka is Native American for "she brings happiness."

  • Fun Facts & Other Interesting Information

    The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a sneaky hunter, hunting mostly by perching inside foliage and waiting for small birds to approach, or by approaching stealthily through dense cover, then bursting forth with incredibly swift flight to capture prey in its talons. Yoohoo - I see you!

    Our smallest accipiter, the “Sharpie” is a jay-size hawk that frequents backyard bird feeders in winter, bursting from nearby bushes to snatch a small bird off a branch. Although some homeowners vilify them, Sharpies serve a needed function of keeping wild bird populations healthy and wary.