More often than not, a trip to a New Jersey hawk watch in will give you the opportunity of seeing a Sharp-shinned Hawk streak past. Here are some interesting things I have been learning as I have read about the “Sharpie”.
- The Sharp-shinned Hawk is the smallest hawk in North America
- Most Sharp-shinned Hawks spend their summers under the canopy of dense forests
- As common in Accipiter hawks, female Sharp-shinned Hawks are distinctly larger in size than males, with an average size advantage of 30%, and a weight advantage of more than 50% being common
- Typically, male Sharp-shinned Hawks will target smaller birds, such as sparrows and wood-warblers, and females will pursue larger prey, such as American Robins and flickers. This results in the lack of conflict for prey between the sexes.
- Sharp-shinned Hawks often pluck the feathers off their prey on a post or other perch before eating them
- While in migration, adults are sometimes preyed on by most of the larger bird-hunting raptors, especially the Peregrine Falcon
- Adult Sharp-shinned Hawks pass food to their young in mid-air. They will hover briefly and kick the prey outward just as the fledgling arrives.
- Large numbers of Sharp-shinned Hawks are seen during migration. Over 11,000 were seen on one October day at Cape May Point, New Jersey
- Backyard bird feeders attract Sharp-shinned Hawks from time to time. Most bird watchers prefer to discourage this behavior. However studies indicate that feeders don’t greatly increase a songbird’s chances of being taken by a Sharp-shinned Hawk—the hawks get the great majority of their diet elsewhere
The chart below shows the numbers of Sharp-shinned Hawks that have been counted at the Picatinny Peak, Raccoon Ridge, Scott’s Mountain, Sunrise Mountain, and Wildcat Ridge hawk watches in Northwest New Jersey.