Nature Journal
with Photos

Sharp-shinned Hawk Identification Tips
(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)
General Information
- Sexes similar, but females much larger
- Small, broad-winged, long-tailed hawk
- Short, dark, hooked beak
- Long, narrow tarsi
- Short, rounded wings
- Long tail is squared-off at tip with prominent corners
- Typically flies with several quick snappy wingbeats
  and a short glide, but also soars
- Small rounded head does not project far beyond
  wings when soaring

- Red eye
- Black cap
- Blue-gray back and upperwings
- White breast, belly and underwing coverts marked by
  fine, thin, reddish bars
- White undertail coverts
- Tail, blue gray above and pale below, barred with
  black bands
- Flight feathers, blue-gray above and pale below, with
  dark bars

- Yellow eye
- Brown head with indistinct pale supercilium
- Brown cap, nape, back, and upperwings
- Tail, brown above and pale below, barred with black
- White underparts streaked extensively with dark
  brown, almost to the undertail

Similar species
The Sharp-shinned Hawk is most similar to the Cooper's Hawk. In all plumages, the Sharp-shinned Hawk has a shorter, less rounded tail with a thinner white tip, slimmer tarsi, a more rounded head that does not project much beyond the wings when soaring and a less snappy wingbeat.

Male Sharp-shinned Hawks are obviously smaller than all Cooper's Hawks. Adult Sharp-shinned Hawks have a less well-defined cap while immatures have thicker, more extensive streaking on the breast and belly. Immature Northern Goshawks are quite similar to immature Sharp-shinneds but are much larger, more comparable in size to a buteo. American Kestrel is similar in size but has pointed wingtips and quite different patterns.
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