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Description: The Hawksbill Turtle is a small to medium-sized sea turtle that can grow to over three feet in length and weigh more than 150 pounds. The Hawksbill is similar in appearance to other sea turtles but it smaller and has thick scutes toward the posterior of its carapace that give it a serrated appearance. The carapace is “tortoise-like” in coloration with red, orange, and brown streaks. In addition, the Hawksbill has a beak-like mouth and claws on its flippers and two pre-frontal scales on the top of the head. The shape of the mouth allows it to access crevices in coral reefs to find its prey.
Diet: The Hawksbill Turtle feeds on certain kinds of sponges. They will also take jellyfish, sea anemone, and even the Portuguese Man O’ War.
Habitat/Range: The Hawksbill Turtle is found throughout the world’s temperate and tropical oceans. Major breeding areas include islands in the eastern Caribbean, northern South America, eastern Africa, islands in the Indian Ocean, parts of Indonesia, and northern Australia. Smaller breeding populations exist in many coastal points across the world. The Hawksbill Turtle is often found swimming amongst coral reefs. They can also be found in the open ocean, lagoons, and even mangrove swamps.
Nesting: Breeding periods vary amongst Hawksbill Turtles depending on location. Like most sea turtles, the Hawksbill female emerges from the ocean to deposit her eggs in the sand at night. She will dig a hole above tide line and lay up to 140 eggs before using her back flippers to cover them with sand. In two months, the young Hawksbills hatch and head for the ocean. As with all sea turtles, only one or two per thousand babies makes it to maturity. Most are picked off on their way to ocean by gulls, raccoons, large crabs or predatory sea birds, or, in the ocean by sharks and other predators. It is thought that the Hawksbill reaches full maturity after 30 years.
Status: The Hawksbill Turtle is listed as critically endangered. Overhunting (especially in Asia), pollution, and habitat destruction have negatively impacted this species. Today, it is illegal to import or export turtle products, kill, capture or harass hawksbill turtles.