Accipiter striatus velox

Status:  Uncommon, locally common, regular spring and fall statewide migrant. Rare casual breeder north. Uncommon regular winter visitor statewide.

Documentation: Specimen: UNSM ZM12494, 23 Aug 1908 Monroe Canyon, Sioux Co.

Taxonomy:  There are seven subspecies currently recognized throughout the Americas, two in North America, perobscurus of Queen Charlotte Is, British Columbia, and velox throughout Canada, United States, and most of Mexico (Gill and Donsker 2017).  Nebraska birds are presumed velox.

Occurrence of perobscurus as a migrant in Nebraska is unlikely; Bildstein and Meyer (2020) note that it is only partly migratory, reaching Oregon and possibly farther south.

Spring:  winter<<<>>> May 25, 26, 28

Migrants pass through mostly in Apr and early May, with peak counts in mid-Apr. Jun sightings are mostly juveniles (Wheeler 2003), such as singles 9 Jun 2011 Custer Co, 10 Jun 2005 Dawson Co, and 21 Jun 2016 Fort Niobrara NWR, Cherry Co.

  • High counts:  5 in the eastern Rainwater Basin 17 Apr 2011, and 4 in Kimball Co 14 Apr 2001.

Summer:  Evidence for breeding of this species in Nebraska is sparse. It is secretive during the breeding season and generally stays within the canopy of both coniferous and deciduous forest, making it difficult to locate.

The best evidence is from the central Niobrara River Valley and the Pine Ridge. Youngworth (1955) considered it a “resident in small numbers” in the central Niobrara River Valley, and Mossman and Brogie (1983) had several sightings of two breeding pairs and a possible third at three sites in the Niobrara Valley Preserve Apr-May 1982. One of the breeding pairs, both parents in immature plumages, had four eggs in Brown Co 6 Jun; young had fledged by 25 Aug (Mossman and Brogie 1983). One was at Fort Niobrara 21 Jun 2016, but its age class was not noted.

Evidence from the Pine Ridge is weaker but breeding probably occurs there (Rosche 1982). Roger Sharpe (pers. comm.) secured a male with enlarged testes 19 Jun 1968 in typical ponderosa pine habitat at the head of Little Monroe Canyon, Sioux Co. A “possible nest” was reported from the Fort Robinson area 14 Jun 2006, and there are breeding season reports from Scotts Bluff Co 11 Jun 1995, Jun 1996, 19 Jun 2001, 4 Jul 1999, and 4 Aug 1997.

The only reports elsewhere are of an adult carrying food to a nest in Sherman Co in 1981 (Ducey 1988), and an apparently successful nesting in 1994 in northern Saunders Co, where a territorial pair was observed in spring through late Jun and an immature was heard 6 Aug (Silcock and Rosche 1994).

There are at least 40 reports Jun-10 Aug. Most are from southeast Nebraska; since there is only one documented breeding record in that area it is likely that many of these reports are mis-identified male Cooper’s Hawks, although some may be non-breeding one-year olds (Wheeler 2003).

Fall:  Aug 21, 22, 23 <<<>>> winter

Earlier dates are 16 Aug 2008 Dawes Co, and 18 Aug 2006 Lincoln Co.

Reports on early dates in fall are suspect due to presence in summer statewide of Cooper’s Hawks; small Cooper’s and large Sharp-shins can be difficult to separate. Migratory Sharp-shinned Hawks become noticeable in early Sep, with peak numbers from mid-Sep to mid-Oct.  Data from the Hitchcock Hawk Watch, just across the Missouri River from Washington Co, Nebraska, show arrival in mid-Aug, and an average count per fall of 934 Sharp-shinned Hawks compared with only 240 Cooper’s Hawks ( 2017).

  • High count:  41 at Camp Wakonda, Sarpy Co, 21 Sep 1998.

Winter: Winter records are statewide, except for the treeless grasslands of the Sandhills. Reports are fewest in mid-Jan. Some individuals frequent urban neighborhoods during the winter, preying upon passerines that are attracted to bird feeders.  CBC data 1990-2015 indicate a 1.7: 1 ratio of Sharp-shinned to Cooper’s.

  • High counts: 11 on the Branched Oak-Seward CBC 17 Dec 2005, 7 there 14 Dec 2003, 7 there 17 Dec 2009, 7 there 14 Dec 2019, 7 on the DeSoto NWR CBC 2 Jan 2011, and 7 on the Lake McConaughy CBC 31 Dec 2011.


CBC: Christmas Bird Count
NOURC: Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee
NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum


Photograph (top) of a Sharp-shinned Hawk at Papillion, Sarpy Co 13 Feb 2005 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited

Bildstein, K.L., K.D. Meyer, C.M. White, J.S. Marks, and G.M. Kirwan. 2020. Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, B. K. Keeney, P. G. Rodewald, and T. S. Schulenberg, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Ducey, J.E. 1988. Nebraska birds, breeding status and distribution. Simmons-Boardman Books, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.  2017.  Hawkwatch Site Profile:  Hitchcock Nature Center, accessed 22 May 2018.

Mossman, M.J., and M.A. Brogie. 1983. Breeding status of selected bird species on the Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska. NBR 51: 52-62.

Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, USA.

Silcock, W.R., and R.C. Rosche. 1994. Fall Field Report, August-November 1994. NBR 62: 126-149.

Wheeler, B.K. 2003. Raptors of Western North America. Princeton University Press, New Jersey, USA.

Youngworth, W. 1955. Some birds of the Quicourt Valley. NBR 23: 29-34.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2021. Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 1 Jan 2021