Sharp-shinned hawk
Accipiter striatus
Family Accipitridae
Subfamily Accipitrinae

Like most of the accipiter subfamily, sharp-shinned hawks are small, forest-dwelling raptors that zigzag between trees to snatch up small rodents and birds.

Identifying Traits (both sexes):

  • Slate-gray above
  • Barred with rufous below and on front parts of wing undersides
  • Tail long, narrow, and banded with black
  • End of tail usually square-edged, occasionally notched
  • Usually flies by gliding with quick wingbeats interspersed
  • Yellow beak is short, sharply hooked, and tipped with black
  • Juvenile:  dark brown above, white belly marked by vertical brown streaks rather than the horizontal rufous barring of adult
  • Size: 35 cm (14”)
  • Weight: 200 g (7 oz)

Similar Species: Cooper’s hawk averages slightly larger and has a more rounded tail; however, these two species are very similar and difficult to distinguish even for experienced birders.


Voice: The sharp-shinned hawk has a high, strident call: kiiiik, kiiik, kik!.

Habitat: Sharp-shinned hawks are woodland birds, and they are never found far from tree cover.  However, they will make forays out into woodland meadows and other clearings to claim small rodents.

Range: The sharp-shinned hawk is a year-round resident of most of the Northeastern United States as far north as southeastern Maine.  It ranges as far north as Canada during the breeding season and winters on the Gulf Coast.

Interesting Facts: Subfamily Accipitrinae is often referred to as the “bird hawk” family.  The sharp-shinned hawk in particular is fond of preying on small songbirds, and has been known to lurk near backyard feeders in order to pick off the smaller birds that come for a meal.



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