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Small Birds Beware of Sharp-shinned Hawks

coopers-and-blue-jay-by-jeannieShort, powerful, rounded wings and a relatively long tail enable Sharp-shinned Hawks to maneuver in dense cover in pursuit of small birds, which compose 90% of their diet. Small mammals and insects are consumed, but not nearly as frequently as birds. The size of the birds eaten range from hummingbirds to Ruffed Grouse. Long legs and toes (especially middle toes) enable individuals to reach into vegetation and large eyes enhance its ability to catch fast-moving prey.

Sharp-shinned Hawks are familiar sights to those of us with bird feeders – this species is responsible for 35% of 1,138 predation incidents reported at feeders in continent-wide survey. In this photograph, a Blue Jay is successfully warding off an attack by a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk. (Photo by Jeannie Killam.)

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14 responses

  1. Susan Carr

    The blue jay is as big as he is!

    October 18, 2016 at 8:29 am

  2. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature

    What an amazing shot!

    October 18, 2016 at 8:31 am

  3. Suzanne

    Great photo! I once saw a sharpie get a blue jay in our back yard (nowhere near a feeder) and pluck it alive while the blue jay screamed and gripped the hawk’s ankles (reflexly, I guess). It went on and on. Pretty chilling. But everybody’s gotta eat.

    October 18, 2016 at 8:32 am

  4. WOW! FABULOUS photo!!! Thanks so much.

    October 18, 2016 at 8:33 am

  5. What a great shot! Sharp shins are a regular visitor here in Huntington along with Merlins. I love those smaller raptors.

    October 18, 2016 at 8:33 am

  6. WOW! FABULOUS photo! Thank you!

    October 18, 2016 at 8:33 am

  7. Dede & Kendrick Heath

    We had a sharpie do itself in (on our side door), right off the birdfeeder array.

    * * * Dede & Kendrick Heath


    October 18, 2016 at 8:37 am

  8. Lucie Bourdon

    What a great photo!

    October 18, 2016 at 8:43 am

  9. mariagianferrari

    They used to hang out at my birdfeeder in the winter when I lived in MA (and one very cold day there was a Cooper’s hawk too!) Such a great photo!

    October 18, 2016 at 9:21 am

  10. Bill On The Hill...

    Great shot Mary, a rare opportunity for sure! I have never seen this bird until now. The tail patterns remind me of a broad wing hawk for some reason…

    October 18, 2016 at 10:17 am

    • Hi Bill, Just wanted to be sure you knew that I didn’t take that great photo. Wish I had!

      October 18, 2016 at 1:55 pm

  11. I love this photo. Look at that focus in the eye of the hawk… despite the miss! I’ve witnessed this same drama at my feeders as well, usually with a blue jay but successful for the hawk. But I have never been able to fully identify the hawk. Always enjoy your informative posts Mary and the incredible photos. (Jeannie’s, too!) Happy Fall!

    October 18, 2016 at 10:34 am

  12. Great shot. I wondered at the outcome, the bluejay got lucky this time! We’ve had one of these at our feeder, not very welcome!

    October 18, 2016 at 9:39 pm

  13. Glad I read this yesterday, so I could identify the bird trying to get into the chicken run today! It was foiled by the chicken-wire fencing, but then roosted in a tree above to look down on them. My hens are big girls (7 or 8 pounds each), so maybe they would have been safe anyway, but I decided not to take chances, and locked them in their coop for now.

    October 19, 2016 at 11:54 am

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