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Hawksbill Sea Turtles

Considered by many to be the most beautiful of sea turtles for their colorful shells, the hawksbill is found in tropical waters around the world. They spend their time in coral reefs, rocky areas, lagoons, mangroves, oceanic islands, and shallow coastal areas.

Named for its narrow head and sharp, bird-like beak, hawksbills can reach into cracks and crevices of coral reefs looking for food. Their diet is very specialized, feeding almost exclusively on sponges. One of the smaller turtles, adults weigh between 100-200 pounds (45 - 90 kg) and reach 2-3 feet (roughly .5 to 1 meter) in length. 

  • These turtles are solitary nesters, nesting in low densities on small scattered beaches. Adult females are well adapted for crawling over reefs and rocky areas to reach secluded nesting sites.

  • On average, they nest roughly 4 times per season at 2 week intervals and lay around 140 eggs per nest. Nests however, may contain over 200 eggs!

  • Hawksbills are considered Critically Endangered around the world by the IUCN Red List and are listed as Endangered in the US. Some researchers believe the Eastern Pacific hawksbill is likely the most endangered sea turtle population worldwide.

  • Their scientific name is Eretmochelys imbricata.

  • Because of their sponge diet, their flesh is harmful to humans. Sponges contain toxic chemical compounds which accumulate in the animal’s tissues. The consumption of their meat by humans may cause serious illness and in extreme cases even death.

  • Hawksbills are important inhabitants of coral reefs. By consuming sponges, they play an important role in the reef community, aiding corals in growth. It’s estimated that one turtle can consume over 1,000 pounds of sponges per year. Without them, sponges have the ability to overgrow corals and suffocate reefs.

  • It is illegal to trade, purchase or possess sea turtle products. When purchasing “tortoiseshell” products overseas, be sure you are buying synthetic materials.