Sharp-shinned Hawk

Accipiter striatus (striped or streaked)
Prepared by: 
Ann Walton
  • Length: 10 – 14 inches    
  • Wingspan: 20 – 28 inches
  • Weight: male: 82 – 125 gm, female: 144 – 208 gm

This hawk is a typical short-winged forest accipiter, with a long square tipped tail. Adult males and females have similar coloration; upperparts are bluish and underparts are rufous to tawny buff with variable barring. The tail has broad gray bars. Eyes are red. Immatures are dark brown above and pale below with heavy streaking. Eyes are yellow.
The bird is named because its tarsi are thin and flat. 

 

Subspecies: 
Seven recognized, only one subspecies in U.S. (A. s. velox)
Distribution: 
Alaska and nw Canada, south through central and southern Canada, U.S., West Indies and Central America to Panama.
Habitat: 
Ubiquitous: Lowland to mountainous regions, found in tropical rainforests, mixed open deciduous woodland, coniferous forests, brushy area and even urban treed areas. Seldom flies above canopy.
Feeding: 
Birds from 15 – 27 gm constitute 90% of its diet. A specialized hunter, that in addition to some silent perched feeding attacks, often catches its avian prey by sudden rapid bursts of speed along woodland routes, plucking the surprised bird from its perch within a tree or bush. Other food includes small mammals, frogs, lizards and insects. This hawk often has specified feeding posts, usually near its nest.
Breeding: 
April – July in U.S.; January – July in the Caribbean. Solitary. Nest is a bulky stick platform lined with bark or greenery. Usually, found 12 - 30 feet above the ground in small stands of pines or deciduous woodland. Clutch is 4 – 5 eggs in U.S.; 2 – 3 in Caribbean. Breeding may occur in first full year.
Movements: 
U.S. race is migratory, especially from taiga, moving south as far as Panama. Spring migration occurs between March and June. Fall migration starts in late August and extends to late October with a peak in late September. Mountain residents move from higher to lower altitudes. Tropical birds are sedentary.
Status: 
Some general decline due to habitat destruction, although some local increases noted because of ability to adapt to urban regions.