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Sharp-shinned Hawk

Scientific Name:

Accipiter striatus




Dense forests for nesting, may be seen in open areas during migration


During mating and nesting seasons, can be found deep in the forests of northern Canada and Alaska. Later in the year they will migrate as far south as Panama. Found throughout much of North America.


Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

This species is


to the Truckee Meadows.


Sharp-shinned hawks are the smallest of the hawks in the US and Canada, with long legs, short wings, and a long tail squared on the end. The largest sharpies, as they are sometimes called, are just over 13 inches tall, and just under a half pound in weight; females can be a third larger than males, and by comparison, they are smaller than a crow. Sharp-shins are blue-gray in color on their back with an orange and white horizontal striped pattern on their front. While they have a distinctive flap-flap-glide flight pattern, sharpies are dynamic aerialists flying through dense forests at rapid speed and catching their prey in mid air. Their diet consists primarily of song-birds, with an occasional small rodent, moth, or grasshopper.

Fast Facts:

  • Sharp-shinned hawks use their long toes and talons to impale and hold their moving prey. They can pursue and capture a song-bird in the air.

  • Parent sharpies continue to feed their fledglings; and once the young hawks are ready their parents help them gain skills by passing them prey in mid-air.

  • There are differing opinions as to whether the numbers of Sharp-shins are being maintained or declining; but one possible explanation for a difference in the count is sharpies may be less migratory than they were previously.

  • If you find that Sharp-shins are eating the songbirds attracted to your backyard bird feeder, remove the feeder for a few weeks and the sharpie should move on.

  • Sharp-shinned hawks will decapitate prey before feeding it to their young.



Regina Hockett (research & content)

Rachel Carroll (edits & page design)

Last Updated:

March 27, 2024 at 1:48:22 AM

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