Natural Sightings #567 - Sharp-shinned Hawk.JPG

A Sharp-shinned Hawk in an Arizona Cypress tree.

Josiah Ormsby took this photo in the Tehachapi Valley of a Sharp-shinned Hawk in an Arizona Cypress tree. Sharp-shinned Hawks (Accipiter striatus) typically breed in deep forests, but during the winter they are often found in more open habitats. Their numbers greatly increase in the Tehachapi Mountains during the winter months as birds from more northern locations and higher elevations come down to hunt songbirds.

Tehachapi residents often see Sharp-shinned and the similar-looking but larger Cooper's Hawks at their backyard bird feeders in the winter, but they are not looking for bird seed — they are hunting the songbirds that are attracted to the feeder.

Both Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks are known as accipiters, and they are superlative flyers, able to wing their way through branches and thickets as they pursue smaller birds.

A friend and I once spent half a day catching an accipiter that was loose in the back freight area of the old Kmart building. The hawk had followed sparrows in through an open loading door in the building as the smaller birds were feeding on spilled bird seed. After dining on a couple of songbirds, the hawk was then flying back and forth in the loft area, through the myriad of struts supporting the building.

People with caged birds outside often report seeing Sharp-shinned Hawks landing on or near the cage, trying to figure out how to get at the birds within.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: