The Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Fri, 06/12/2020 - 9:30am

Block Island has always been a wonderful spot to go birding, not only because it is an important stopover during migration. Many thanks to Elizabeth Dickens who started the bird program with the Block Island School students in the early 1900s, and Kim Gaffett for continuing it.

Each year, Mrs. Szabo implements a bird unit in her fourth grade class, and asks her students to choose a bird that they think will best fit the “Block Island Bird” of the year. Through nature walks, bird banding with Miss Gaffett, and research, each student has chosen and learned about a bird and, based on their traits and qualities, they believe best represents Block Island.

This is the first in a series:

Although the Sharp-shinned hawk is small, they are fierce, flying quickly and are stealthy upon their prey. To humans they may seem small and harmless, but to smaller birds, they are intimidating and dangerous predators.

The scientific name of the hawk is Accipiter Striatus.

The sharp-shinned hawk is 10 to 14 inches tall. Its wings are rounded, and its tail is long, with a square or notched tip. It has a beak that is rounded and has a hook on the end, because it does not eat seeds, it eats birds and small mammals. The hawk has skills like a raptor, and he uses his speed and skills to grab birds with his sharp talons. Immature Sharp-Shinned Hawks are brown with pale spots, while the adults are blue -g ray on top and white barred with rusty coloring below. The nest of the hawk is a mass of twigs and sticks located 10 to 60 feet above the ground. They make their nests in deciduous woodland areas. They usually lay four or five eggs in a nest, that are a dull bluish or greenish with bold spots of many shades of brown. The mother and father both tend to the eggs and they incubate for about 34 to 35 days. The young h a w k s leave the nest around 23 days after hatching.

Sharp-shinned hawks live in areas with lots of forests and woodlands, especially those with a mix of coniferous and deciduous trees.

They breed in coniferous forests, and in almost any habitat where they can find a lot of their prey. Sharp-shinned hawks hunt mostly by perching inside of foliage and waiting for small birds to approach, or by approaching stealthily upon rodents and swooping down on them in a field. In addition to small birds and rodents, they also hunt insects. You can find sharp-shinned hawks in North America, Alaska, Canada, California, New Mexico, Northern Gulf States and the Carolinas. When they migrate in winter, they will do so travelling alone.

I have not seen the sharp-shinned hawk in real life, but I know there is a good chance at seeing one here on Block Island. They have been reported being seen at Lewis Farm. I believe the sharp-shinned hawk is a good candidate to represent our island, because even though it is a small bird, it is fierce, as well as beautiful and resourceful, much like our beloved home Block Island.