Sharp-shinned Hawk Species Notes, Development Photos and Case Histories

The smallest of the Accipiter family in North America, this bird-eating  hawk is found in hilly, wooded areas during the nesting season. The smaller males are not much bigger than a Bluejay, while the females are noticeably larger.  Despite their small size, these bird- eating hawks can chase down and capture birds as large as quail, dove, and flicker.  Diet also includes small mammals and insects, but birds form the largest proportion of the diet.

Nest site preference is shown for dense stands of trees, with conifers usually preferred.  Nests are generally built against the main trunk.  Eggs are laid at 48 hour intervals, and clutch size is generally 2 to 3.  Incubation is 30 to 32 days, with the female doing most of the incubating.   Young hatch with eyes open, and develop rapidly, with males developing several days earlier than females. The young are brooded and fed by the female until 16-23 days of age.  Males leave the nest at about 24 days, with females leaving at about 27 days after hatching.  Both birds spend 1 to two days as branchers, jumping or flying to branches close to the nest before first real flight. Food is dropped into the nest until a few days after fledging, when the fledglings begin take delivery of the food in mid-air.  Fledglings from other nests have been observed competing for food deliveries at the nest site with a brood of recent fledglings.  The adults apparently made no distinction between their own fledglings and the strangers, although the young birds did display aggression towards the interlopers.  First attempts to hunt occur about 2 weeks after fledging, but the young remain in the nest area and receiving decreasing amounts of food from the parents until about 4 weeks after fledging.  At that point the young abandon the nest area entirely.

Because of their preference for nesting in dense stands of trees and because of their secretive
nesting behavior, we have rarely encountered Sharp-shinned juveniles.  The only case we have
successfully released was extremely instructive, however.


Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)

Development Photos

Young nestlings–note the extremely long middle toe which is characteristic of Accipiters


Older nestlings


Sharp-shinned Hawk nest


Telltale signs below the nest tree of occupation


Case Histories

Case #1


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