Hawksbill Turtle

The Hawksbill Sea Turtle gets it’s name for the distinctive shape of its beak which is pointed and sharp (hawk-like) compared to other species. Their shell is brightly colored and can make them fall prey to the ‘tortoiseshell’ trade (used in jewelry and ornaments) even though they are a protected species. Currently Hawksbills are listed as Critically Endangered by The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


One of the smaller species of turtles the shell of a Hawksbill hatchling might be only one to two inches long (2.5 to 5 centimeters), while the average adult grows to about 2.5 feet (0.8 meters) and weighs up to 150lbs. (Though we have seen some more than a meter long sleeping on wrecks at night in St. Maarten.)

Source: Photo taken by Leslie Hickerson on a night dive at The Gregory, St. Maarten


Adult Hawksbills can eat about 1,200lbs of sea sponge per year. This makes them very important in the health of the reef system. Due to their unique beak their diet can also include mollusks, algae, urchins, jellyfish etc.


Like most sea turtles female Hawksbills return to the beaches where they were born to make their own nests. These females are very efficient out of the water and can complete the nesting process in about 45 minutes. Even though they lay quickly females still fill their clutch (nest) with over 100 eggs that incubate for about 60 days. In one season they will return to the beach to lay more eggs 3 to 6 times.

Fun Facts

  • The decline in coral reefs worldwide present another risk to these turtles who rely on sponges as the primary part of their diet.
  • These turtles can eat some animals and sponges that are toxic, but the Hawksbill’s fat absorbs the toxins without making the turtle ill.

Source: Photo by Leslie Hickerson of Hawksbill Turtle at dive site The Gregory, SXM

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