Sharp-shinned Hawk

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Is the Sharp-shinned Hawk right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Sharpie

Scientific name: Accipiter striatus

The basics:
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.)

Average size:
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

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