Sharp-Shinned Hawk Diet: Everything They Eat?

Sharp-Shinned Hawk Diet

Sharp-shinned hawks are the smallest species of hawks living in North America, South America, Central America, and the Greater Antilles. 

They belong to the genus Accipiter, and the scientific name for the species to be Accipiter striatus. 

This species has 10 different subspecies found throughout America. 

The sharp-shinned hawks are carnivorous in nature but this article will precisely discuss their diet, eating capacity in a day, different diets in summers and winters, etc.

So without any further ado, Let’s get into it…

What is the Sharp-Shinned Hawk’s Diet?

Sharp-shinned hawks are great hunters and feed themselves by hunting other birds or animals. 

They mostly feed on songbirds, 90% of their prey are the American songbirds like robins, goldfinch, pyrrhuloxia, northern cardinals, and doves. 

These birds have a smaller stature and are easy to hunt. The hawks don’t try to hunt for bigger birds because they don’t feel safe. 

They hunt during dusk or dawn but not during the night because they can fall prey to large nocturnal birds. 

The sharp-shinned hawks also kill small rodents like mice, moles, and squirrels. When these are not available, they feed on insects like grasshoppers, moths, and butterflies. 

They often kill babies of other birds in their nests to feed themselves. They occasionally target small mammals and insects if birds are scarce. 

How Much Do Sharp-Shinned Hawks Eat In A Day?

The sharp-shinned hawks eat about 12-15% of their body weight per day. The eating frequency of a hawk also varies depending on the time of year. 

This totally varies from one bird to the other because of their weight and also the availability of prey and habitat. 

The larger hawk species eat about 180gms of meat per day. But sharp-shinned hawks eat 70-80 gms of meat and can live for a day and a half without eating anything.

The sharp-shinned hawks can eat one large meal and then spend many hours without eating anything. 

Also, they can eat many times a day if they hunt for smaller species like songbirds and insects. They don’t have to feed regularly but need to feed once in 3 days. 

Do Sharp Shinned Hawk Eat Chicken And Pigeon?

The sharp-shinned hawks have a wingspan of 43-56 cm during the flight which makes them a much larger predator to the pigeons. 

They fly very high in the sky to fix their eyes on the prey. Once they fix their target on a pigeon, they can easily kill that and feed with their partners. They also feed the same thing to their nestlings. 

The size of a chicken can vary as there are different species of chicken found in wild and urban areas. 

The chickens generally are of bigger size than the sharp-shinned hawks but if they prey in groups, they can easily manage to kill a chicken may it be wild or urban. So it can be easily said that they feed on both chicken and pigeons. 

Do Sharp Shinned Hawks Eat Squirrels And Rabbits?

Sharp-shinned hawks feed on rodents that include squirrels, mice, etc. They can easily hunt and feed on them to get their required amount per day. 

As for rabbits, they can be quite wild and aggressive for the sharp-shinned hawks to tackle and hunt. 

They wouldn’t generally go hunting rabbits if other prey is available in that habitat but if they are desperate to feed themselves and their babies, they would take partners and altogether food on them. 

Do Sharp Shinned Hawk Eat Hummingbird And Blue Jay?

Yeah, the sharp-shinned hawks definitely feed on hummingbirds and blue jay birds. These are short-structured songbird species that can easily fall prey to hawks of any species. 

They can be easy prey but since their body weight is also minimal, the hawks need to kill more birds for these species to fill their tummy. 

The hawks mostly kill these birds to feed the babies since they cannot feed on big prey. 

What Do Sharp-Shinned Hawks Eat In Summer?

The feeding totally depends on the habitat in which the sharp-shinned hawks are residing. 

They mainly eat small birds, of about sparrow size to robin size, sometimes up to the size of quail. 

The hawks also eat small numbers of rodents, bats, squirrels, lizards, frogs, snakes, and large insects.

What Do Sharp-Shinned Hawks Eat In Winter?

Winters can be difficult for them to catch prey and feed. When it’s cold outside they need to keep their body warm by eating more warm flesh and storing energy for generating body heat. 

Hawks that have eaten for long periods can store the amount of body fat to keep them warm for longer. 

The lifespan of the sharp-shinned hawks is about 5-6 years, which is not very long and they need to get a proper diet to keep themselves alive. 

If they don’t get the proper amount of food in a habitat they can either fly to a more populated place or starve to death. 

Some of the hawks generally migrate to warmer places for the winter period to survive but then return to their original habitat. 


These carnivorous hawks feed on all kinds of small birds, rodents, and if necessary mammals. 

They hunt for both their partners and also babies during the breeding season. They catch whatever prey is suitable for them in that habitat and if scarcity appears, they travel to another habitat for survival. 

I hope this article has provided you with all the necessary information regarding the fooding habits of a sharp-shinned hawk. 

Thank you for reading! 

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