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Sharp-shinned Hawk

1-25-13 sharp-shinned hawk2 IMG_1977If the majority of your diet consisted of one type of food, and that food was concentrated in certain spots, it would make sense to frequent those spots. Bird-eating predators, such as the sharp-shinned hawk, are frequently seen at bird feeders for this very reason. Although not very large — roughly the size of a blue jay (the female is a third again larger than the male) — this accipiter is a formidable predator, and one which causes feeder visitors to either disappear or become motionless for a considerable amount of time. The sharp-shinned hawk is the smallest hawk in North America and derives its common name from the sharp-edged “shin” on the lower part of its legs. Its long tail and short wings make it extremely adept at flying through dense woods in search of small birds.

9 responses

  1. The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a fierce predator of song birds. I saw one once move around my back yard from tree to tree trying to get a Downy Woodpecker at the suet feeder. As the Downy moved from one side of the feeder to the other, the hawk flew to another tree. This went on for some time until the hawk (who I think saw me standing in the doorway) gave up and flew away.

    January 28, 2013 at 12:14 pm

  2. Polly Forcier

    Mary, I thought the kestrel was the smallest of the hawks, not? Polly Forcier


    From: Naturally Curious with Mary Holland [] Sent: Monday, January 28, 2013 6:53 AM To: Subject: [New post] Sharp-shinned Hawk

    Mary Holland posted: “If the majority of your diet consisted of one type of food, and that food was concentrated in certain spots, it would make sense to frequent those spots. Bird-eating predators, such as the sharp-shinned hawk, are frequently seen at bird feeders for this “

    January 28, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    • Hi Polly, A kestrel is considered a “falcon,” and the Sharp-shinned a “hawk.” Different families, genera, etc. Here’s an explanation I found on the web: . Hawk vs Falcon

      Hawk and falcon are of the order of species of birds called the accipitriformes or the falconiformes. However, their taxonomy deviates in the subfamilies. A hawk and a falcon are of entirely different genus. Falcon belongs to the genus Falco while a hawk belongs to Accipiter genus. Each genus has its own special characteristics that distinguish one from the other.


      Hawk is a bird of prey. There are different types of hawks that belong mostly to the large and widespread Accipiter genus. These include goshawks, sparrowhawks, the Sharp-shinned Hawk and many others. Most of them are woodland birds that are characterized with long tails and high visual acuity. Their beaks are simple and have smooth curve and uses their talons to kill prey. They also have short wings, slimmer toes and feet with yellow, orange or red eyes for most true hawks.


      Falcon is also a bird of prey and their species are widely distributed throughout Europe, Asia and North America. A falcon has a notch on their beak usually used to break the neck of their prey. Most adult falcons have thin, long pointed wings that allow them to fly at high speed and to modify direction rapidly. They also have shorter tails and long slender feet and toes.

      Difference between Hawk and Falcon

      The main difference between a falcon and a hawk lies on their hunting styles. Hawks are ground hunters. They are very agile in which they prey by swift, surprise attacks. They confine their hunting activities to ground dwelling animals. When they see an opportunity, such as a prey coming out from the cover, they stoop and accelerate and grab the prey through the talons on their feet. Falcons are speed hunters. They hunt on the wing from above. They will go to great heights, and then fly in circles while waiting for the prey. Once a prey is at hand, they dive at great speed and hit their prey using their beak to do damage to the neck.

      Hawks and falcons are indeed sights to be hold in the animal kingdom. They display great character and dynamism, especially on how they hunt, a sight worthy to behold.

      In brief:

      – Hawks are ground hunters. They wait on their prey in woodland from a short distance. Falcons hunt using speed. They go to great heights weighting for a prey and then stoop at great speed to attack.

      – Hawks have beaks that are simple and have smooth curves. They have short wings and long tails. Falcons have a notch on their beaks which are used to break the neck of their prey. They have longer wings for speed and shorter tails.

      Mary Holland Hartland, VT 802/436-2525 Visit my blog at

      January 28, 2013 at 6:45 pm

  3. Polly, the American Kestrel is a falcon and not a hawk. But you are correct that it is smaller..

    January 28, 2013 at 2:02 pm

  4. What an incredible photo! Those red eyes are quite intense!! I have seen hawks prey on bluejays from the feeder area here but was never sure what kind they were. It all happens so fast!

    January 28, 2013 at 2:38 pm

  5. Cordelia Merritt

    Hi Love the photo – his breast resembles and ear of field corn. C

    January 28, 2013 at 5:16 pm

  6. jennifer sawyer

    this looks like our hawk… may I send it to Merrit or wait…oxs

    January 31, 2013 at 3:47 am

  7. Good blog post. I definitely love this site. Keep writing!

    May 18, 2013 at 2:34 am

  8. It’s going to be finish of mine day, but before ending I am reading this wonderful article to improve my experience.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:03 am

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