Sharp-shinned Hawk

So the sharp-shinned hawk is a residential bird of Oklahoma–but only during the winter, and then briefly during migrations seasons (heading north or south). Therefore, I managed to get a picture (plus some blurry ones) of a immature sharp-shinned hawk one winter morning at Boomer Lake.

Young sharp-shinned hawk spotted at Boomer Lake

At least, I think it is an immature sharp-shinned hawk and not an immature Cooper’s hawk (as they both look very similar)–since I was only seeing the back and not the front–I went by the tail. Looking at the feet, legs, and barring pattern on the chest is a better way of telling immature sharp-shinned hawks from immature Cooper’s hawks.

So these are smallish size hawks with long tails and short wings. There is a size difference between the male and female adult hawks–the male is roughly the size of the American kestrel, while the female is roughly the size of a male Cooper’s hawk. So this could be an immature female sharp-shinned hawk.

In terms of coloring, they are very similar to the Cooper’s hawk. The adults are gray-blue, with a reddish-orange chest (with a distinct barring pattern). The younger hawks are brown, with streaks on their chest.

Depending on the season, sharp-shinned hawks can be found somewhere within the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Distribution of the sharp-shinned hawk within North America. Map (c) birds of the world

Their summer grounds are to the far north, where they will breed in dense forests with hopefully closed canopies within most of Canada, Alaska, and the northern parts of various states. They are also found year-round in areas of different states (where they will also be breeding, possibly in slightly different types of forests). They then spend their winters further south throughout the southern states, south in Mexico and Central America.

Oklahoma is a state they winter in, so in terms of spotting them–look to the edge of forests, fields (that edge forests), city parks, and even the backyard (if you have bird feeders out).

The diet of an adult sharp-shinned hawk consists of mainly songbirds, with species ranging from robins, thrushes, to warblers and sparrows (plus any bird that is approximately within that size range). They will occasionally go after larger birds such as quail, shorebirds (depending on the location), doves, swifts, woodpeckers, and even the occasional small falcon.

They will also eat small mammals (mice and voles), plus the occasional insect (such as moths and grasshoppers).

In terms of what they feed their chicks after they hatch–that meal would consist of the nestlings and fledglings of other birds.

Two little other tidbits:

This was another raptor that was affected by the use of DTT, but managed to make a comeback after the banning of the pesticide.

After catching a bird, they will stop on a low branch (or possible stump) to pluck the feathers before eating. These hawks prefer a featherless meal to sink their beaks into–unlike owls, which will swallow the meal whole, feathers and all.

My photography goal is to get a picture of an adult sharp-shinned hawk and a better picture of an immature sharp-shinned hawk during their winter months in Stillwater. Out of the pictures I took that one morning–only one was decent, the others were all slightly blurry.