Named for their narrow head and beak over-bite, the Hawskbill sea turtle is a descendant of a group of reptiles that as existed for more than 100 million years. One of the largest populations of Hawksbill turtles is in the Caribbean Sea, commonly seen along coral reefs off the shores of St. John.
Not to be confused with Green sea turtles, the Hawksbill turtle looks similar but has a distinct bird-like beak.
Did you know… the shells of Hawksbill turtles slightly change colors, depending on water temperature!
The Hawksbill turtle is considered Endangered in the United States and Critically Endangered worldwide. Their population has declined more than 80% in the last century, primarily due to the high value placed on their brightly colored carapace (shell). Hawksbills were hunted almost to extinction prior to the ban on the tortoiseshell trade. Despite the fact that the international trade of their shells is now illegal, there is still a thriving black market. Other threats to the Hawksbill turtle include destruction of nesting and feeding habitat, pollution, boat accidents, coastal development and fishing.
While the Hawksbill turtle lives part of its life in the open ocean, it spends more time in shallow lagoons and coral reefs. Hawksbill Sea turtles feed mainly on sponges, sea anemones and jelly fish. 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.
On average, female Hawksbill turtles nest four times per season at two week intervals and lay around 100-200 eggs per nest. Help protect Hawksbill turtle nesting sites by not disturbing shorelines and dispensing plastics and other trash in proper bins.
Watch these graceful beings at home in their own habitat with a shoreline snorkel on St. John! For accommodations to match every budget, checkout Windspree’s amazing selection of vacation villas in Coral Bay, St. John.