Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)

Sharp-shinned Hawk

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Accipiter striatus | [authority] Vieillot, 1807 | [UK] Sharp-shinned Hawk | [FR] Epervier brun | [DE] Eckschwanz-Sperber | [ES] Gavilan Americano | [NL] Amerikaanse Sperwer


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Accipiter are small and medium-sized hawks, often called Sparrow-hawks or Goshawks. The females are almost invariably much larger than the males – in some cases weighing twice as much – a level of size dimorphism only exceptionally reached in any other genus Falconiformes. Their wings are short and rounded; the tail usually quite long. They are well adapted for flying through dense bush. Bird-catching Sparrow-hawks generally have long and slender legs, with slender digits, the middle one being especially long. Goshawks are usually larger, with shorter, thicker tarsi and digits and a shorter middle digit. Some smaller species have goshawk-like feet and vice versa, making it difficult on a world-wide basis to subdivide the genus on this or any other broad basis. Although many accipiters feed upon birds moreso than do other hawks, some species take many mammals, especially squirrels; others take lizards, frogs, snakes, insects, even snails. In these species the legs and digits are sometimes slender, but short. Accipiters are rarely crested, but some have very attractive colour patterns. Black phases are present, especially in the tropical species. One in Australia has the only pure white phase. Accipiter is the largest genus in the family, having about fifty species. It is present worldwide, but is especially rich in Papua-New Guinea, where a small island like New Britain may have three to five endemic species or distinct sub-species.

Physical charateristics

Near the size of a jay; a small, slim-bodied woodland hawk, with a slim tail and short, rounded wings. Flies with several quick beats and a glide. Adult has a dark back, rusty-barred breast. Folded tail of male is
slightly notched or square (may seem a bit rounded when spread). Head and neck proportionately smaller than Cooper’s. Immature is dark brown above, streaked with rusty on underparts.

Listen to the sound of Sharp-shinned Hawk

[audio: Hawk.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 51 cm wingspan max.: 69 cm
size min.: 25 cm size max.: 34 cm
incubation min.: 30 days incubation max.: 32 days
fledging min.: 38 days fledging max.: 42 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America, Middle America : widespread. Sharp-shinned Hawk


Mixed or coniferous forests, open deciduous woodlands, thickets, edges. Usually nests in groves of coniferous trees in mixed woods, sometimes in dense deciduous trees or in pure coniferous forest with brush or clearings nearby. In wint
er, found in any kind of forest or brushy area, but tends to avoid open country.


Sharp-shinned Hawk In courtship, pairs may circle above the forest, calling. Male may fly high and dive steeply into woods.
Site is well concealed, usually in a dense conifer within forest or grove; usually 20-60′ above ground. Sometimes builds on top of old nest of squirrel or crow. Nest is platform of sticks, lined with bark strips, twigs, grass. Both sexes bring nest material, female may do most building.
Clutch Usually 4-5, sometimes 3, rarely 1-6. Bluish white fading to white, blotched and washed with brown. Incubation is mostly by female, 30-35 days. Male brings food to female on nest and may sit on eggs while she is eating.
Young: Female remains near young for first 1-2 weeks after they hatch; male brings food, female feeds it to nestlings. Young may move out of nest onto nearby branches after about 3-4 weeks, can fly at about 5-6 weeks. At times nestling songbirds form a considerable part of the diet of the young hawks. The male gives low calls as he approaches with prey; the female leaves the nest to join him at a plucking perch where they pluck and sometimes dismember the prey, at the same time uttering squealing notes.

Feeding habits

Mostly small birds. Feeds mostly on birds of about sparrow size up to robin size, sometimes up to the size of quail. Also eats small numbers of rodents, bats, squirrels, lizards, frogs, snakes, large insects.

Behavior: Hunts 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 talons. Sometimes hunts by flying rapidly among the trees or low over ground, swerving around obstacles, taking prey by sudden surprise.

Video Sharp-shinned Hawk


copyright: Alexander Grimwade


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Sharp-shinned Hawk status Least Concern


Tree limit in Alaska,
Canada to northern Argentina. Winters from northern United States south. Migration:
Some in Northwest may be permanent residents, but most are migratory. Large numbers may concentrate at some points along coasts or ridges during migration, especially in certain weather conditions, but the birds are traveling as individuals, not in flocks

Distribution map

Sharp-shinned Hawk distribution range map

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