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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Sharp-shinned Hawk -- Accipiter striatus

RANGE: Breeds from western and central Alaska and northern Yukon to southern Labrador and Newfoundland, south to central California, southern Texas, the northern parts of the Gulf States, and South Carolina. Winters from southern Alaska, the southernmost portions of the Canadian Provinces south through the United States to Panama.

STATUS: Fairly common; the population appears to be recovering from earlier declines that occurred until the early 1970's in the eastern United States.

HABITAT: Primarily inhabits coniferous and mixed conifer-birch-aspen forests of the Canadian and Transition life zones northward to the Arctic tree line. Less commonly inhabits other woodland types except in mountainous areas. During migration and in winter it may occur in almost any type of habitat containing trees or shrubs.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Dense coniferous-deciduous forest.

NEST: Usually nests in trees with dense foliage, primarily conifers, from 6 to 90 feet, typically 30 to 35 feet above ground and below a well-developed canopy. Nests may be in small groves of conifers surrounded by deciduous trees. Generally constructs a new nest each year in the immediate area of the previous year's nest.

FOOD: Feeds primarily on birds sighted while flying over forest floor, meadows, and brushy pastures. Sparrow-sized birds are taken most often, but occasionally attacks birds larger than itself. Also eats a few small mammals, reptiles, and insects.

REFERENCES: DeGraff et al. 1980, Evans 1982, Heintzelman 1979, Jones 1979, Platt 1976, Reynolds et al. 1982, Tate and Tate 1982.

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