The Sharp-shinned Hawk
A Sharp-shinned Hawk is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Sharp-shinned Hawks. We have also put together a list of fun Sharp-shinned Hawk t-shirts, Sharp-shinned Hawk bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird-watching items.
About Sharp-shinned Hawks
The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a fairly small bird of prey. In fact, it is the smallest hawk in Canada and North America. They have distinctive proportions such as short wings, long legs as well as very long tails which they use for navigation. Their numbers began dropping in the 20th century because of the DDT pesticide but the ban on the pesticide may help restore the population to normal levels.
Description and Identification
Sharp-shinned Hawks are so small that the males are the smallest hawks found in Canada and the
The United States. Female Sharp-shinned Hawks are 11-15 inches long, with a wingspan of 23-27
inches. Males are more than 50% smaller in size in comparison to females. Aside from the
major size differences between the sexes they also have noticeably different plumage. Male
Sharp-shinned Hawks have white underparts with brown bars and short, round wings with darker
coloration on top and a lighter coloration at the bottom. In contrast to the males, females have
fewer bars on the breast, and they have darker upperparts. These birds yellow feet and legs, and
short and hooked beaks. Younglings are paler than the adults, and have more streaking or barring
on their plumage. These birds look similar in appearance to their relatives; Cooper hawks, but they
are smaller in size.
Sharp-shinned Hawk Color Pattern
Their tails are banded in black and gray with the tip varying in different individuals. They have a black hooked beak and a white underpart streaked with chestnut. They have a dark gray upper part and yellow cere.
Sharp-shinned Hawk Size
They are fairly small-sized birds with long legs and slender bodies. The length in males spans 23-30cm and a wingspan of 42-58cm. Their body weight ranges between 82-115g. Female birds are slightly larger with their length 29-37cm and a wingspan of 58-68cm. They weigh between 150-219g.
Sharp-shinned Hawk Behavior
When in flight, they appear as a blur of motion often disappearing in a flurry of feathers. They are considered pursuit hunters as they surprise their prey by bursting from a hidden perch with speed and will take on the prey of small birds either on the ground or mid-air.
These Hawks tend to be silent and solitary in pairs during their breeding season. They will also hide in deep forest cover during breeding.
Sharp-shinned Hawk Food
Sharp-shinned Hawks have a diet that is mainly dependant on songbirds. Tiny birds such as
warblers, American Robins, thrushes, and sparrows are the most commonly hunted prey. It’s rarer
for Sharp-shinned Hawks to prey on bigger birds, but it has been observed. Birds as large as
quails, doves, woodpeckers, falcons, and swifts have been hunted by Sharp-shinned Hawks. Other
animals that are consumed by these birds are voles, rodents, grasshoppers, and mice. Adults feed
their nestlings with the fledglings and nestlings of other birds.
They like feeding on small birds and small rodents and amphibians. The small birds range in size from swallows to quail size birds.
Sharp-shinned Hawk Habitat
Sharp-shinned Hawks prefer to inhabit forests and forest edges. Unless these birds are migrating,
they cannot be found in regions with scattered trees. These birds need dense forests with closed
canopies for breeding. Sharp-shinned Hawks give preference to coniferous forests but they have
been noticed residing in oak-hickory forests and hardwood forests too. These birds are known to
occupy a variety of elevations — from sea level to the top of long trees. During winters, these birds
can be located in slightly more open habitats.
Look for them in coniferous mixed forests and open deciduous woodlands. They cannot be found in areas where trees are scarce and scattered.
Range and Migration
Sharp-shinned Hawks are birds of prey that are commonly found in most regions of North America.
Their range in South America is slightly narrower — it extends from Venezuela to Northern
Argentina. Sharp-shinned Hawks are migratory birds that migrate towards the southern part of their
range during winters.
Sharp-shinned Hawk Life Cycle
The female can lay up to 5 eggs. They keep the eggs incubated for 30-35 days till they hatch. The young are fed in the nest until after 3-4 weeks when they can fly. At 5-6 weeks, they move to nearby trees and build their nests. Sharp-shinned Hawks have a lifespan of about three years.
Sharp-shinned Hawk Nesting
As Sharp-shinned Hawks are known to be secretive, little is known about their mating behaviors. It
is believed that they perform courtship flights during the breeding season, but this information cannot
be confirmed. Sharp-shinned Hawks breed between March and June when prey is abundantly
available. Members of both sexes participate in nest building, but the females do most of the
work. The nests are constructed out of twigs and are lined with bark chips. Sharp-shinned Hawks
reuse the same nests for years and refurbish them when needed. If their old nests are unusable,
these birds build new nests on top of them. Female sharp-shinned Hawks lay about 4-5 eggs which
are incubated for 21-35 days. These birds only raise one brood per year.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Sharp-shinned Hawks
The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing Sharp-shinned Hawks are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
Sharp-shinned Hawk T-shirts
If you love the Sharp-shinned Hawk you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Sharp-shinned Hawk Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Sharp-shinned Hawk Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Sharp-shinned Hawk. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.
Bird Feeders for Sharp-shinned Hawks
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Sharp-shinned Hawks
There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.