Sharp-Shinned Hawk

This gallery contains 3 photos. The first time I saw this small winged predator–a familiar visitor–it made its cameo in the backyard, to the dismay of the songbird regulars. Even though I (rather noisily) opened a window of the second floor sunroom to get a shot of it, this juvenile made no attempt to move from its perch (as YASJs are wont to do).

in adult Sharpies, the yellow eyes turn blood red and the brown back/wings become dark grey
f/6.3, 1/1000, 500mm, ISO 500

Instead, it surveyed the grounds below and above it, almost patiently and methodically, before finally turning its bright yellow eyes on the photographer. Small birds are the staples of its diet, although the forest, thicket, and dense shrubs in the backyard do give our more vulnerable feathered friends lots of choices in which to (quickly) hide.

compared to Cooper’s, Sharpies have smaller bills; smaller heads; square tails; and thinner legs
f/6.3, 1/1000, 500mm, ISO 200

At least one Sharpie has made a few more appearances in the yard earlier this year, but none so bold as my first one. Whether any have successfully claimed a bird, I’ve yet to confirm by sight. Sharp-Shinned Hawks look remarkably like the more muscular and slightly bigger Cooper’s Hawk (and, to further muddy the waters, female raptors tend to be much larger than males). Only through these detailed closeups (and visible field marks) was I able to get third-party confirmation of its identity. Photographed on March 9, 2015.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk
most of my Sharpie sightings have been in my yard (which, with 100-ft trees, is its own forest).
f/6.3, 1/1000, 500mm, ISO 200


23 thoughts on “Sharp-Shinned Hawk

    • the juvenile raptors are usually inexperienced compared to the adults when it comes to hunting prey successfully. some people I know of–who are extremely lucky in attracting songbirds to their yards–suffer the frequent loss of songbirds to Sharp-Shinned Hawks hunting in the area. thankfully, we have not seen any of the adults here.


  1. Terrific photos – a magnificent and alert presence, and look at those talons! I think I had one of these in my yard in late fall hanging out by the bird feeder. Of course, no one was foolish enough to be dining at the time!

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