Sharp-shinned Hawks will fly through the area both independently as well as in kettles (groups of raptors). Quite often, the chances of seeing kettling Sharp-shinned Hawks depends on how close to the peak migration we are for the species. When hawkwatching in peak migration on days with many Sharp-shinned Hawks moving through, it is not uncommon to see small kettles of these gorgeous, petite accipiters flying past. We had a few small kettles of 'shins today.
With the fall days of late-September and early October taking place, it is that time of the fall migration where we see a turnover of ages within the Sharp-shinned Hawks observed. In early September, the bulk of the Sharp-shinned Hawks migrating past Hawk Ridge are juveniles. As we get closer to the month of October, many (but not all) of the juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawks will have passed through, and more adult 'shins will begin to migrate past the ridge. By mid/late October, most of the Sharp-shinned Hawks observed are adults. This migrational trend of juveniles-first & adults-later, can be seen throughout the raptor species found at Hawk Ridge. Many Red-tailed Hawks that we're seeing now are juveniles (although a few adults have come through). Come late October, most of the Red-tailed Hawks flying through will be sporting the gorgeous tomato-red tail feathers!
Here is a Sharp-shinned Hawk migrating past Hawk Ridge from a few years ago. This individual was on its second fall migration when the photo was taken. A juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk would be showing a yellow set of eyes, with brown wings and brown vertical streaks throughout the underbelly. An older adult would show a dark red eye with the adult plumage of reddish horizontal barring and slate-gray wings, backside and tail. The bird in this photo shows the adult plumage, but hosts an orange eye, which is commonly seen during that 1st/2nd year transition of the bird's life.
Here is a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk, photographed in Duluth just a few weeks ago. Note the brown plumage, vertical streaks, and pale-yellow eye.
Tomorrow may be a rainy day... We'll have to see. Many fun times are in store at the ridge.
Hawk Ridge Count Interpreter