My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a small hawk, with males being the smallest hawks in the United States and Canada.

It occurs in a wide range of woodland and forest types, both dominated by conifers and by various types of broad-leaved trees (especially oaks) The largest populations are thought to occur in the temperate boreal forests, but winter in warmer regions farther south.

This is a small Accipiter hawk, with males 23 to 30 cm (9.1 to 11.8 in) long, with a wingspan of 42 to 58 cm (17 to 23 in) and weight from 82–115 g (2.9–4.1 oz). As common in Accipiter hawks, females are distinctly larger in size, averaging some 30% longer, and with a weight advantage of more than 50% being common. The female measures 29 to 37 cm (11 to 15 in) in length, has a wingspan of 58 to 68 cm (23 to 27 in) and weighs 150 to 219 g (5.3 to 7.7 oz). The wings measure 14.1–22.9 cm (5.6–9.0 in) each, the tail is 12–19 cm (4.7–7.5 in) long and the tarsus is 4.5–5.9 cm (1.8–2.3 in). Adults have short broad wings and a medium-length tail banded in blackish and gray with the tip varying among individuals from slightly notched through square to slightly rounded (often narrowly tipped white). The remiges (typically only visible in flight) are whitish barred blackish. The legs are long and very slender (hence the common name) and yellow. The hooked bill is black and the cere is yellowish.

These birds surprise and capture most their prey from cover or while flying quickly through dense vegetation. They are adept at navigating dense thickets and many attacks are successful, although this hunting method is often hazardous to the hawk. The great majority of this hawk’s prey are small birds, especially various songbirds such as sparrows, wood-warblers, finches, wrens, nuthatches, tits, icterids and thrushes. Birds caught range in size from a 4.4 g (0.16 oz) Anna’s Hummingbird to a 577 g (1.272 lb) Ruffed Grouse and virtually any bird within this size range is potential prey. Typically, males will target smaller birds, such as sparrows and wood-warblers, and females will pursue larger prey, such as American Robins and flickers, leading to a lack of conflict between the sexes for prey. These hawks often exploit backyard bird feeders in order to target congregations of ideal prey. They often pluck the feathers off their prey on a post or other perch. Rarely, Sharp-shinned Hawks will also eat rodents, lizards, frogs, snakes, and large insects, the latter typically being dragonflies captured on the wing during the hawk’s migration.

Sharp-shinned Hawks construct a stick nest in a large conifer or dense group of deciduous trees. Clutches of 3 to 8 eggs have been recorded, but 4 to 5 eggs is the typical clutch size. The eggs measure 37.6 mm × 30 mm (1.48 in × 1.18 in) and weigh about 19 g (0.67 oz). The eggs are prized by egg-collectors, because they are heavily marked with surprisingly colorful and varied markings. The incubation period is thought to average at about 30 days. After hatching, the young are brooded for 16 to 23 days by the female, while the male defends the territory and catches prey. The young fledge at about a month old and rely on their parents for feeding and protection another four weeks. The nesting sites and breeding behavior of Sharp-shinned Hawks are generally secretive, in order to avoid the predation of larger raptors, such as the Northern Goshawk and the Cooper’s Hawk. While in migration, adults are sometimes preyed on by most of the bird-hunting, larger raptors, especially the Peregrine Falcon.

On to my photos:

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

This is number 150 in my photo life list, only 200 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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12 responses

  1. Congratulations on reaching 150!!!

    March 18, 2014 at 4:53 am

    • Thank you!

      March 18, 2014 at 8:37 am

  2. Great looking bird, wonderful pics and info

    March 18, 2014 at 6:26 am

    • Thanks Barb!

      March 18, 2014 at 8:38 am

  3. A wonderful project! I wish you luck and lots of fun in your pursuits of these lovely creatures! Great hawk photographs. He’s awfully pretty!

    March 18, 2014 at 8:19 am

    • Thank you! Those photos are of two different sharpies, they were chasing each other around for some reason.

      March 18, 2014 at 10:05 am

      • Some unknown sharpie territorial issues, no doubt. They are so pretty! …but not to little songbirds, I am sure!

        March 18, 2014 at 10:47 am

  4. Nice shots. These birds have some amazing looking eyes.

    March 18, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    • Thanks! I think that these two were younger ones, the adults often have red eyes.

      March 19, 2014 at 2:23 am

  5. Nice pics. We see a lot of bald eagles while kayaking but like usual the camera is packed away safely in the dry bag at these moments. Birds are so beautiful and peaceful.

    March 21, 2014 at 8:41 am

    • Thank you!

      I have a Canon Powershot point and shoot that I take with me while kayaking, much easier to protect, and it takes a fairly good photo.

      March 21, 2014 at 9:22 am

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