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Meet Sharp-shinned Hawk

Updated: Oct 8, 2023

Sharp-shinned Hawks are small hawks

Sharp-shinned hawk
Photo by Tyler Jamieson Moulton on

characterized by their short wings, long tails, and distinctive slate-blue plumage in adults. They are year-round residents in some parts of Michigan, but many individuals embark on long-distance migrations to escape the harsh winters. These hawks primarily feed on smaller birds, which they capture with astonishing speed and precision. Sharp-shinned hawks are fond of hunting birdfeeders as songbirds congregrate there and create an asy food source. Michigan serves as a critical stopover point for Sharp-shinned Hawks during their annual migrations as well as a summer breeding home. These raptors also travel through the state in high numbers during their fall migration, which typically occurs from September to November. During this period, they traverse the state in search of favorable winds and thermal updrafts that aid their long-distance flight. Sharp-shinned Hawks that nest in northern regions of North America, such as Canada, pass through Michigan on their way to their wintering grounds in the southern United States and even Central and South America. In the spring, they return to their breeding grounds, though their migration through Michigan during this season is less conspicuous. Michigan's unique position as a migration corridor for Sharp-shinned Hawks has led to several research and conservation initiatives. Scientists and bird enthusiasts regularly monitor hawk migration patterns through established hawk-watching sites, such as the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory and Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. These sites provide valuable data on the number and timing of hawk migrations, which aids in better understanding the species' movements and population dynamics. Furthermore, conservationists use this information to raise awareness about the importance of preserving habitats and protecting these magnificent birds of prey.

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