photographs by Douglas Herr
Accipitridae: Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)

22 July 2017
Sharp-shinned Hawk
24 September 2015
Marin County California
Sharp-shinned Hawk
07 October 2014
Marin County California
Sharp-shinned Hawk
September 2000
Marin County California
Sharp-shinned Hawk

Field identification tips: Of the three Accipiter species in North America the Sharp-shinned Hawk is generally the smallest, though size alone cannot be used to identify this species since a large female Sharp-shinned Hawk may be the same size or larger than a male Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). A number of field marks used together are the best way to identify this bird, but there will be some individuals that are difficult to identify to species and should be identified as Accipiter sp. Compared with A. cooperii, A. striatus has less visible neck, a small, rounded head, skinny legs with a long middle toe, more of a 'broad-shouldered' look vs. A. cooperii's tubular body, and even-length tail feathers. Adults are blue-gray above with a dark cap extending down the nape, and rufous barring on the underparts. Immature birds are similar to immature A. cooperii, brown above with underparts streaked with brown, with 'messier' streaks than A. cooperii. Sexes are similar with females averaging larger than males.

Typical range: In North America this bird's breeding range extends far north well into the Canadian and Alaskan boreal forests; wintertime finds these birds primarily in the Lower 48 states and Mexico. This bird is also resident in the Caribbean Islands and many areas in South America.

Habitat: Accipiters are forest raptors however during migration they may be observed overhead where additional field marks can be handy: A. striatus has very little head projection ahead of the wings, and the tail appears squared-off (vs. A. cooperii's rounded tail).

all photographs Copyright (C) Douglas Herr
last updated 19 January 2022