Sharpies in the Winter

A Sharp-shinned Hawk perches on my garden fence. Photo by Donna L. Long
A Sharp-shinned Hawk perches on my garden fence. Photo by Donna L. Long

In the fall I often see a Sharp-shinned Hawk hunting in my backyard. Several times I have had the breath-holding pleasure of watching this sleek agile flier dive into a thicket in pursuit of a plumb juicy House Sparrow.

Sharpies are strictly bird catchers. They regularly visit bird feeders in winter. They may nest in the secluded dense conifer forest of the far north, but they spend the winter in low elevation edge habitat and suburban area. Sharpies winter from the U.S.-Canadian border south to Central America.

Sharp-shinned-Hawk (Photo credit: colorob)

This bird hawk chases House Sparrows through the tangled thicket of Shadbush, rose, and high bush blueberries unscathed. The Sharpie executes abrupt turns and high-speed chases in pursuit of prey.

I have yet to see a successful hawk fly away with a small bird to eat. maybe the Sparrows in my garden are tough to catch. The thicket helps by providing a good hiding place.

Last winter the Mourning Dove flock in my garden dwindled in size from over a dozen to four or five birds. My neighbors told me the Sharpie lurked around my garden, perched on the gate posts during the day when I was at work. Apparently, the same Sharpie visited my garden every day and hunted.

If the Mourning Doves are the prey, then the Sharpie was very likely a female. Female Sharpies, being larger than the males, take larger prey than the males. Females prey only on larger birds such as Mourning Doves, Blue Jays, and Quails. Males usually take the smaller birds like House Sparrows.

Sharpies are rarely encountered in urban and suburban areas during summer as they breed at high elevations, from May to August, at high elevations in coniferous forests and remote woodlands in Alaska and throughout Canada.

Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), Michigan
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), Michigan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




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