SHARP-SHINNED HAWK(Accipiter striatus) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Sharp-shinned Hawk has long legs (hence the name) and a long tail but short wings. This raptor is blue-grey on its upper parts and has a usually white breast with horizontal tawny stripes. The rump is white and the tail has dark brown bands. As with other hawks and falcons, females are larger, but in this case, significantly (up to 50%). The male is the smallest hawk in North America, at around 30 cm long (12 inches).
NAME: The English name ‘Hawk’ would stem from ‘to have’, to seize or grasp. The other part of the English name ‘Sharp-shinned’ refers to the rather unique morphology of the bird’s legs. The Latin genus name ‘Accipiter’ means ‘to grasp’. As for the Latin species name ‘striatus’, it stems from the underside stripes of this hawk.
HABITAT:   Wooded areas and forest edges.
DIET: Mainly songbirds, also some rodents, small reptiles and large insects.
NESTING: The nest is built in a conifer and well hidden. Around five light blue eggs are laid, which are incubated by the female for the most part. The male feeds the female and when the chicks are born, she feeds the chicks from the food brought by the male.
DISTRIBUTION: The sharp-shinned hawk breeds in most of Canada and Alaska. Because of its diet it can also be found around bird feeders during migration.  This species migrates to the southern USA, Mexico and parts of South America on the east side.
Distribution map:
ON PEI: Sharp-shinned hawks are fairly common on Prince Edward Island except in the summer, when they have been observed less often.
CONSERVATION: Their numbers plummeted during the DDT years, but they rebounded afterwards, like many other predatory birds. However since DDT is still used in some of their wintering areas, this can be cause for concern, due to their diet.
NOTES: Sharp-shinned hawks hunt by ambush, hidden in trees (conifers). They cannot digest feathers, so they pluck their prey before eating them. During migration they are more easily observed, as they may gather in large flocks along coastlines and other more open areas.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Merlin, Cooper’s HawkHere’s an article to help distinguishing the latter from the sharp-shinned hawk.
Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas (Sharp-shinned Hawk)
The Spruce (Sharp-shinned Hawk)
Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust (Sharp-shinned Hawk)

Sharp-shinned hawk – Dunedin, PEI – Jan.6, 2012 – Photo by John Read
Sharp-shinned hawk, PEI, by John Read
Sharp-shinned Hawk – Bodega Bay, CA – Sept. 24, 2016 – Roberta Palmer
Sharp-shinned hawk, CA, Roberta Palmer
Sharp-shinned Hawk carrying prey - Pt Reyes, CA – Sept. 26, 2016 – Roberta Palmer
Sharp-shinned hawk carrying prey
by Roberta Palmer
Sharp-shinned Hawk with lunch – Pt Reyes, CA – Sept. 26, 2016 – Roberta Palmer
Sharp-shinned hawk with prey
by Roberta Palmer
Sharp-shinned Hawk juvenile eating its prey – Pt Reyes, CA – Sept.26, 2016 – Roberta Palmer
Sharp-shinned hawk juvenile eating its
prey, CA, by Roberta Palmer