Sharp-shinned Hawks at Ashland

By Joe Sebastiani, Members Program Team Leader

For the third year in a row, a pair of Sharp-shinned Hawk are nesting at the Delaware Nature Society’s Ashland Nature Center.  This is the only pair of Sharp-shinned Hawk to ever have been found nesting in Delaware.  The normal range of the Sharp-shinned Hawk in eastern North America is up and down the Appalachian Mts.  They are considered rare breeders in the Piedmont of Maryland and Pennsylvania, and now…Delaware. 

Sharp-shinned Hawks look like the bigger Cooper’s Hawk, which is a fairly common nesting species in Delaware.   Sharp-shins are visibly different in slight ways from the Cooper’s, but the most noticeable difference is the voice.  In fact, we discovered the pair by hearing them in April of 2007.  For a comparison of Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawk calls, click on the links at the bottom of the post.  The Sharp-shinned Hawk pair nested here in 2007 and raised 3 young.  In 2008, the pair nested in a different tree in the same woods and raised at least 2 young.  This year, the pair are back, and are again nesting in a different tree, but in the same woods.

Sharp-shinned Hawks nest in dense groves of pine.  The pair at Ashland is no exception, and the nest is hidden high in the dense crown of a white pine tree.  At this time, the female is incubating eggs on the nest.  During the breeding season, she will do most of the incubation and all of the brooding of chicks.  The little male, not much bigger than a Blue Jay, is busy hunting small birds to feed her.  At midday, the male will usually take over the incubation duties from the female for a little while.   I will keep you posted on how the Sharp-shinned Hawks fare this summer at Ashland Nature Center. 

The male Sharp-shinned Hawk was found eating a male Northern Cardinal during April.  Notice that he is not much bigger than the Cardinal.  Photo by Hank Davis.
The male Sharp-shinned Hawk was found eating a male Northern Cardinal during April. Notice that he is not much bigger than the Cardinal. Photo by Hank Davis.

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