Sharp-shinned Hawks are found throughout North America, Central America, and South America, as well as some Caribbean islands. In the northern extent of the range, some migrate as far south as Panama in the winter, while others simply migrate to lower elevations.
In the early 1900s, Sharp-shinned Hawks were hunted extensively during migration periods, and in the middle part of the century the population further declined as the effects of pesticides, such as DDT, took their toll. Since then, their numbers have rebounded to near historic levels in most parts of their range. However, there is considerable concern for birds that travel to Central and South America or eat prey from these countries because many of the harmful pesticides banned in North America are still used there. Though common in many places, they are threatened or endangered on several Caribbean islands.
Up to 90 percent of their diet consists of small birds, but they also may take small mammals, frogs, lizards, and insects. They rely on the element of surprise to locate their prey and use a short burst of flight to chase it down. They are adept at flying through thick vegetation, which they use as cover when pursuing prey.
A stick nest lined with bark and greenery is usually built each year in a dense stand of trees. Their eggs were once prized by egg collectors for their variability in color and pattern, frequently showing light brown blotches against a dull white background. The female lays 2-5 eggs that are incubated for 30-32 days. The young fledge 3-4 weeks later and may be able to raise their own chicks the following year.