One of our smallest hawks, sharp-shinned hawks favor conifers for nesting. In Southwest Utah, likely nesting sites include mountainous areas such as the Pine Valley Mountains and Kolob Terrace areas. During winter, many sharp-shinned hawks migrate to lowland areas, where they are often seen in urban neighborhoods. They hunt small songbirds, and quickly learn to hang out near bird feeders as a food source. They also eat small mammals and large insects.
In the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, sharp-shinned hawks are common winter residents. Look for them in cottonwood trees along the Virgin River, or in flight with their “flap, flap, glide” pattern typical of Accipiters (the same genus as the similar Cooper’s hawk, and the much larger northern goshawk).
Sharp-shinned hawks can be distinguished from Cooper’s hawks by their smaller size, rounder head shape, and a hooded appearance due to a dark bluish-gray nape. This differs from the Cooper’s hawk’s blockier head and pale nape, giving it more of a capped appearance. In addition, sharp-shinned hawks exhibit a square-shaped tail, which differs from the rounded tail of a Cooper’s hawk.