Hawksbill Sea Turtle
Green Sea Turtle
Leatherback Turtle
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

photo © Carolne Rogers

  • Named for its narrow head and hawk-like beak.
  • One of the smaller sea turtles. Average adults are 205 to 3 feet in length (76-91 cm) and weighs between 100-150 pounds (40-60 kg).
  • Elliptical-shaped carapace, which can be orange, brown or yellow.
  • Most tropical of all sea turtles. Found in both tropical and subtropical waters in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.
  • Eats primarily sponges, squid, shrimp and anemones.
  • Nests at intervals of two, three or more years. Nests between two to four times each season.
  • Listed as an Endangered Species due to the hunting of their prized shell.

Migration of the Hawksbill

Hawksbill Sea TurtleHawksbills are usually found around coastal reefs, rocky areas, estuaries and lagoons.

They have been located from the eastern Atlantic to the southern tip of Africa. In the Americas, Hawksbills occur in the east Pacific from the U.S. to Peru and in the West Atlantic from Nova Scotia to Brazil. Additionally, they are found in the coastal waters of Australia and Indonesia.

Reproductive Cycle and Nesting

Female Hawksbills nest every two to five years. Each time, they lay from two to four clutches of eggs at two-week intervals before returning to their feeding grounds. After coming to shore and digging a nesting pit, the female lays an average of 160 eggs in each nest. Like most species, it is believed the female returns to her natal beach, the same place where she was born, to lay her eggs. There are an estimated 22,900 nesting females in the world.


Hawksbill eggs hatch in about 60 days. After emerging from the eggs, the small hatchlings travel en-masse to the ocean, where they swim continuously for at least three days to reach the safety of deep water. After they grow to about 8-12 inches, the Hawksbills relocate to shallow waters, where they spend years foraging for food and maturing in size.

Endangered Status

The Hawksbill turtle is categorized as endangered under the U.S. Federal Endangered Species Act, meaning it is in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural resources has also listed it as critically endangered. The unusual shell of the Hawksbill turtle, often called the “tortoise shell” is commonly used to make jewelry, and hair ornaments. The harvesting of the Hawksbills shell for these decorative items is the greatest threat to the species even though there is an international ban on trafficking them.

Ecosystem Roles

Hawksbills feed mostly upon sponges in coral reef habitats. The delicate balance of our ecosystem is explained by Scott A. Eckert, PhD: “Sponges are major contributors to reef biomass and compete with other reef organisms for space. By keeping sponge populations in check, hawksbills help to preserve a balance between coral and sponge species in tropical reef ecosystems.”

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