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Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter stratus)

Sharp-shinned hawk


  • One of the ways the sharp-shinned hawk is recognized in the field is by its small size, about 30 centimetres (12 inches) long.


  • Sharp-shinned hawks have a notched or square tail, and rust-coloured, barred under parts.
  • The back and crown are a dark slate grey, and four dark bands stripe the tail.
  • The range includes most of North America and northern South America.
  • Sharp-shinned hawks breed in an area extending from northern Alaska south to California.
  • Winters are spent south of Canada. In Alberta this species is usually found in the Rocky Mountain, foothill, boreal forest and parkland natural regions.
Natural History


  • During hunting flights it flies low over trees in search of prey. Small birds and insects constitute the bulk of its diet.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behavior

  • Nests are generally a flat platform of twigs lined with bark.
  • Four to five eggs are laid.
Conservation and Management


The sharp-shinned hawk is classified as Secure in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species report:

Current management

Like all raptors in Alberta, the sharp-shinned hawk is protected by the provincial Wildlife Act and classified as a non-game species.

Similar Species
  • Cooper's hawk

    The sharp-shinned hawk may be confused with a young Cooper's hawk, but the sharp-shinned hawk has rounded wings and lacks the toothed beak.
  • Merlin

    The sharp-shinned hawk can resemble a merlin, but the sharp-shinned hawk has a squared tail.

Like most accipiters, the sharp-shinned hawk seldom soars, except during migration.


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Posted: Oct 16, 2009