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Sharp-shinned Hawk
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Accipitridae
Subfamily: Accipitrinae

A hawk is a bird of prey. The name can mean a different species such as:

Names and definitions

The Hawk's scientific name is Buteo jamaicensis. The genus Buteo is from the Latin buteo (broad rounded wings). The specific name jamaicensis is named for Jamaica, the country, and from the Latin ­-ensis (which means belonging to a place). This refers to the range of the hawk, extending from Alaska to the West Indies. The Hawk is a bird of prey and those types of birds are called raptors. The young ones, when they have their first complete plumage, are called immature


Adults are typically dark brown and the immature ones are gray brown. There are five different species of Hawks in the United States and several more around the world. Their colors vary slightly. They have a quite noticeable shade of red on their tail end. A few species are black, but it is rare.


Hawks are a very common type of bird that can be found in every habitat in North America except in the high arctic and in extensive tracts of dense forests. The ones that live in the far north migrate south in autumn (when the cool days begin). They can get down all the way to Mexico and South America. They do not stay in the snow and ice. They return in the spring, which is the breeding season. Hawks live in both open and wooded areas, particularly wood edges. They are often seen perched conspicuously on a treetop.


Hawks start breeding when they are one year old. The breeding season is in the spring, and the eggs are laid six to eight weeks later. The mother keeps the eggs warm for about a month before they are born in the late spring. There are normally three eggs in a nest. Weasels sometimes attack the nest, killing and/or eating the nestling.

Flight – Active flight is with slow, steady, and deep wing beats. Hawks soar with wings raised slightly above horizontal. They hover and kite on moderate wind.


While still young and living in the nest, hawks eat worms and beetles. They will also eat frogs, mice and snakes. As they get older, hawks prey mainly on rodents but also on insects and their larvae, fish, birds, and larger mammals such rabbits, hares, and squirrels. They will also eat carrion.

If a hawk finishes a meal with their crop bulging, it may not hunt again for a day or two. The crop is a pouch halfway between the mouth and the stomach, where food is stored and gradually released to the stomach. The crop maintains the steady flow of food needed to sustain these big birds.

If hawks do not find food in an area they move until they find it. Hawks that have attacked and killed something big like a squirrel sometimes only eat small portions of it. As usual with predators, hawks are part of a complex food web that involves many more species.


They have few, if any, natural predators, but they have enemies such as pollution, particularly from pesticides, and habitat destruction from developments. In short, humans are their main predators.