Species group: Birds of Prey
Other common names: Sharpie
Scientific name: Accipiter striatus
The Sharp-shinned Hawk is North America's smallest Accipiter, a forest bird of prey, with short wings and a long tail that allow it to chase flying prey like small songbirds at high speed through the trees. Wild birds can be difficult to distinguish from their larger cousin, Cooper's Hawk – not a problem with captive or falconry birds, where size is easy to determine. The Sharpie is only found in the New World, so it was unknown to traditional European falconry. Its small size makes it a challenge for an experienced expert, not a suitable project for the beginner.
Because of the licensing and expertise required to be a responsible owner of a bird of prey, the following information is offered only as a hint of what you will need to learn to work with Sharp-shinned Hawks. There's no substitute for hands-on training, which we strongly recommend that you pursue before trying to acquire any bird of prey.
Adult Sharp-shinned Hawks possess blue-gray upperparts and beautiful rufous and white barred underparts. Females are much larger than males. Although it can be close, there isn't an overlap in size between the largest Sharpie and the smallest Cooper's.
Male: 101 grams (3.6 oz.)
Female: 177 grams (6 oz.)
Male: 26 centimeters (10 in.)
Female: 31 centimeters (12 in.)
13 - 20 years
Behavior / temperament:
The Sharp-shinned Hawk can be a courageous species that pursues and catches flying prey up close. However, they can also be nervous birds that are themselves a temptation to other birds of prey. You will also have an ethical and legal challenge with training a falconry bird, since its natural instinct is to hunt small native woodland songbirds that are not legal prey.
Sharpies are well-adapted to temperament climates and can tolerate warmth better than more northerly birds like the Goshawk, but make sure these forest birds have protection from direct sunlight. Like most other birds of prey, they are water bathers and will need a bath for the purpose.
The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a carnivore that needs to consume some whole prey in order to allow its digestive system to work properly. As a tiny species, it can present real difficulties in maintaining a healthy weight, and it is not recommended to beginners unless they are working with the guidance of a more experienced person. In the wild, they prey on small songbirds, but captive birds have been kept healthy on a diet heavy in House Sparrows and even the relatively large European Starling. They should also be provided with water.
Written by Elaine Radford
rewarding challenge, experienced falconer
heedless bird, difficult bird, exceptional care
metabolic rate, unique metabolism
Fragile, difficult to train, and prone to escaping - not for beginners
I assisted a more experienced falconer with training a sharp-shinned hawk, and I can say with confidence that this is the most difficult bird to manage that I have ever experienced. Female sharp-shinned hawks are extremely difficult, as they are smaller than the males, and thus more fragile. Sharp-shinned hawks are very susceptible to disease. Cumulus, the hawk I helped with, almost died from disease several times, but due to exceptional care and veterinary work, survived. Additionally, the birds are very sensitive to changes in metabolic rate, and thus require lots of monitoring of their weight, and constant changes in diet to sustain their unique metabolism.
In flying, sharp-shinned hawks are very agile and intelligent. They are very enjoyable to watch when hunting, as they are ingenious trappers - often, Cumulus would burst out of thicket or brush to catch a heedless bird, and I have seen other sharp-shinned hawks utilize bird feeders in people's backyards to trap and ambush their prey. They are adept in environments that other birds could not navigate, like dense forests or urban environments. However, sharp-shinned hawks are very migratory, and during certain seasons, their instincts will cause them to abandon their falconer and fly towards their migration points.
Because of these difficulties, this is a bird that is certainly not fit for a novice, nor for anyone who doesn't want their eyes to turn red and their hair grey from unhealthy doses of stress. However, they are a rewarding challenge to surmount..
From vintners Aug 6 2015 1:47PM