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The Sharp-shinned Hawk, scientifically known as Accipiter striatus, is a small yet agile bird of prey found in various parts of North America, including the picturesque Mule Mountains near Bisbee, Arizona. This bird is a part of the Accipitridae family and is renowned for its incredible hunting skills and distinctive physical characteristics.

Physical Description

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is the smallest hawk in North America. It typically measures between 9 to 13 inches in length with a wingspan ranging from 17 to 22 inches. The males are generally smaller than the females, a common trait among birds of prey. These hawks possess short, rounded wings and a long, narrow tail which is crucial for maneuverability through dense forests.

Their plumage is quite distinct; adults have slate gray backs and wings, with reddish-orange barring on the chest and belly. The young hawks, or juveniles, display brown upperparts and crisp, streaked underparts. Both adults and juveniles have dark bands on their tails and yellow eyes, although the eyes of adults can appear more red.

Habitat and Distribution in Bisbee

The Mule Mountains, with their range of elevations and diverse habitats, provide an ideal environment for the Sharp-shinned Hawk. These birds are found in various types of forests but show a preference for dense woodlands which offer ample cover for hunting. The rugged terrain and mixed coniferous-deciduous forests around Bisbee serve as excellent breeding and hunting grounds for these hawks.

Diet and Hunting Behavior

Sharp-shinned Hawks are adept hunters, primarily preying on small birds. Their diet typically includes sparrows, finches, and warblers. These hawks are ambush predators; they often hunt by stealthily flying low through dense foliage, surprising their prey. They are also known to catch birds at bird feeders, making them a common sight in both wilderness and suburban settings around Bisbee.

Breeding and Nesting

The breeding season for Sharp-shinned Hawks in the Mule Mountains typically begins in late spring. These hawks are solitary nesters, building their nests in dense foliage to conceal them from predators. The nests are constructed out of twigs and lined with bark and other softer materials. Females lay 3 to 5 eggs, which are incubated primarily by the female while the male provides food.

Conservation Status

Nationally, the Sharp-shinned Hawk is not considered endangered, but its population is susceptible to changes in habitat and prey availability. In the Mule Mountains, conservation efforts focus on preserving the natural habitat to ensure a stable environment for these birds and other wildlife. Efforts are also made to monitor their population trends and breeding success in the area.

The presence of the Sharp-shinned Hawk in Bisbee's Mule Mountains adds to the rich biodiversity of the region, making it a notable species for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

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