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Sharp-Shinned Hawk
March 30, 2009

Next week is the "Spring Favorites", if you have something to ass, now is the time to get them to me.

You guys have done well, but a few more of your favorite things of spring or memories would be nice.

Remember, it doesn't have to be from March and April, it can be May or June as well.

For example, hummingbirds don't reach me till early May

Send me your favs along with

First Name, City you are in or near and State/Province

That will be next week's letter.

We always have fun doing specials.

Blessings to you.

Rarely do I get sick, but this bug has had me down for the 8 count more than once the past three days.

Chills, sweats, achy joints, head-aches and other issues.

I contacted this bug from my grandson, thankfully the ladies around here haven't shown any signs (usually they get sick and I don't).

Oh well.

The snow storm that dumped an Kansas and other areas managed to reach my part of Michigan during Sunday, as it left a small amount of white :-)

But, as the case has been this past month plus, snow storms have ventured North.

Our Prayers go out to everyone, especially those in flood and tornado ravaged regions.

Juncos still visit my yard.

Goldfinches are really looking like a quilted patch work of different colors and patterns.

Molting happens over a period of time, in patches here and there so birds aren't hindered.

Can you imagine if molting happened all at once?

All the wing and tail feathers gone at the same time?

The same thing happens with body feathers.

There may be fewer varieties of birds at my feeders and in my yard, but the pace is much quicker now.

Maybe you have noticed that too.

Birds are lively.

Full of song and other courtship rituals.

A new months begins this week, and that means one thing for sure.

It is a time to make sure your feeders and waters sources are cleaned and sanitized.

I'm having all I can do right now so it is time to get to the subject for today.

Sharp-shinned hawks.

Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)

General Description

The Sharp-shinned hawk is the smallest of the three North American accipiters.

Typical with birds of prey, the female is larger than the male.

The Sharp-shinned hawk is a regular visitor to bird feeders, where it eats birds, not seed.

The male and female show a greater disparity in size than any other American hawk; the female is nearly twice the weight of the male.

Mature size is about the size of a Blue jay, but these birds are not Blue jays.

size, wingspan and weight differences are male to female.

Size: 9-13 in (24-34 cm)

Wingspan: 17-22 in (43-56 cm)

Weight: 3.07-7.7 ounces (87-218 g)

Adults have solid gray upperparts and barred, reddish-brown underparts.

Their long, square tails have gray and black bars with very narrow, white tips.

Their eyes are red.

Immature birds are brown above with diffuse brown streaking below; they have yellow eyes.

Sharp-shinned hawks have short, rounded wings that are set slightly more forward on their bodies than those of the larger, but similar-looking, Cooper's hawk.

Their heads are also relatively smaller and their gray caps less distinct than the Cooper's.

The white tip of the tail of the Cooper's hawk is usually wider than that of Sharp-shinned hawk, especially in the fall.

All of these differences are subtle, making it quite difficult to distinguish a male Cooper's hawk from a female Sharp-shinned hawk.

Like all accipiters (a genus of small hawks with short wings and long tails), the sharp-shinned flies with several quick wing beats and a glide.

As with most hawks, Sharpies mate for life and will only mate up again when their is a death.

Average life expectancy is 5 to 6 years, but banded records have gone as high as 19 years.


Sharp-shinned hawks inhabit coniferous or mixed woodlands, avoiding open country.

While Cooper's hawks appear to prefer deciduous forests, Sharp-shinned hawks appear to prefer coniferous forests.

During winter, they are often found in woodlots, towns, and parks.

Often it is the immature hawk that winters in the northern ranges. With easy pickens in our yards, the young hawk realizes there is no real need to migrate.


Built to move quickly and quietly within dense forest, the hunting Sharp-shinned hawk approaches its prey stealthily, until it is close enough to overcome its target with a burst of speed.

This agility allows the bird to hunt successfully around bird feeders.

Like Cooper's hawk, the build of this bird is almost ideal for flying and hunting between trees and buildings.

An ideal suburban hunter.

The secretive traits and inconspicuous nature that allow the Sharp-shinned hawk to surprise its prey also make it difficult to observe.

Both males and females may engage in "slow flight" territorial displays in which the birds fly with stiff, slow, exaggerated wing beats while exposing white undertail coverts.

Both sexes may give the "kik-kik-kik" call during these flights.

Sharpies often have a plucking post near their nests, where they go to pluck feathers from prey, leaving an accumulation of feathers and whitewash at the base of a stump, fence post, or fallen tree.


Small birds (sparrow-sized up to robins and occasionally quail) are the most common prey, although small rodents, reptiles, and large insects are part of the diet as well.

The Sharpie's nesting cycle coincides with peak songbird abundance.

Nesting: At two years of age, the female is mature and ready to reproduce. Little is known about the mating rituals due to the birds secretive nature.

The Sharp-shinned hawk's nest is usually well concealed in a dense conifer tree, 20 to 60 feet off the ground.

The nest is made of large twigs lined with bark, and is often built on top of an old squirrel or crow nest (typically about 2 feet wide).

Male and female help collect material for the nest, although the female does most of the building.

She incubates 3 to 5 White to bluish white eggs, some marked with splotches of brown. for 30 to 32 days, while the male brings food to her.

The female broods the young for the first 16 to 23 days, and the male continues to provide food, which the female feeds to the young.

At 3 to 4 weeks, the young start venturing out of the nest to nearby branches, and begin to fly a few weeks later.

School is in session, what they learn now will save their life later.

Notice the differences from this immature hawk to your right, compared to the mature hawk hawk earlier in this letter.

After the young leave the nest, the adults pass food to the young in mid-air.

The parents give the prize to the first young hawk to reach them, hovering briefly and kicking the prey outward just as the fledgling arrives.

The young hawk learns to catch food. Later on this learning experience will come into play when it must hunt for itself.

The young remain with the parents for another few weeks until they become independent.


Sharp-shinned hawks are migratory, sometimes traveling long distances between breeding and wintering grounds.

Most northern-US breeders winter in the southern United States, but some migrate as far as Mexico and Central America.

Some birds in the North are permanent residents.

Sharp-shinned hawks have been observed migrating by the thousands.

Observations at Cape May, NJ. figure more than 11,000 Sharpies can be seen on certain October days.


Sharp-shinned Hawk numbers dropped in the mid-20th Century as a result of eggshell thinning due to DDT.

They were also easy, convenient targets at hawk migration points.

The banning of DDT and changing attitudes towards predators have enabled the Sharp-shinned hawk to recover well, although new declines have been discovered in some areas in the past few decades.

These declines may be due to a variety of factors, including environmental contaminants, reduced prey supply, and habitat changes.

Just for Fun:

Their common name comes from the very thin, exposed lower leg of this hawk.

A group of hawks has many collective nouns, including a "boil", "knot", "spiraling", "stream", and "tower" of hawks.

Well <>, its time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

You cannot add to the peace and good will of the world if you fail to create an atmosphere of harmony and love right where you live and work.

Thomas Dreier


Isn't it?

There it is again, starting with yourself and starting at home.

If you are a fake, the world will find out.

If you are genuine, it will show from everything you do.

Love and harmony start with you and at home.

Like the ripple on a pond, love and harmony expand outwards.

If love doesn't start at home, where will it start?

Love and harmony expands from home to work to play and it rubs off on others, if you are true.

Today, you will show your love and harmony.

Smile at strangers, pass that harmony on to others.

Let the world know that you are special, you love you and are willing to share.

You are unique,

A one of a kind being with specials talents.

There is no one else like you.

Now smile and share your love and harmony with others.

Do it today.

PS. forgive my mistakes, I am having a difficult time sitting here.

God Blessings to you.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers. Better yet, have them sign up so they can recieve their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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