Connecticut Audbon Society



Daily Bird: Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk. Photograph courtesy of Joseph Cala.

December 17, 2020

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Accipiter striatus

by Andy Rzeznikiewicz
From fall til the early spring Sharp-shinned Hawks are often found patrolling bird feeding stations and field edges.

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a small hawk, around 11 inches in size. Adults have blue-grey above and reddish-brown barring below. The Sharp-shinned’s tail that is square with black and white barring. The tail is sometimes slightly notched. In contrast, Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) has a rounded tail and is a larger bird. The Sharp-shinned Hawk also appears to have no neck when perched.

Often, the easiest way to spot one is to see it attack the birds at your feeding station. But in the fall, look for it chasing migrating songbirds and often soaring high overhead. Sharpies nest in the deep woods and are not observed very often in breeding season.
Facts about the bird: Sharp-shinned Hawks are pursuit hunters, meaning they chase their prey. About 90 percent of their diet is small songbirds. They can be observed harassing larger birds of prey like Red-Tailed Hawks.

Conservation status: Sharp-shinned Hawk populations used to be in decline because of DDT use but since the ban of DDT in the 1970s they have rebounded and are much more plentiful. Although listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, the nesting population of Sharp-shinned Hawks are officially endangered here in Connecticut.

Andy Rzeznikiewicz is the sanctuary manager for our northeast Connecticut sanctuaries.






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