Species encyclopedia

Hawksbill Turtle

Eretmochelys imbricata


As a general rule, hawksbill turtles only reproduce every two or three years. They mate in shallow waters.

A single mating is enough to fertilize all the eggs that will be laid during the season. This is because the females store up the spermatozoa for later ovulations. After mating, the females travel to remote beaches in tropical regions. They each dig a large bowl in the sand with their front flippers and then use their rear flippers to dig a nest 50 cm deep where they place their 70 to 200 eggs the size of table tennis balls. After laying their eggs, which can take up to 90 minutes, the females cover up their nests and return to the sea.


These turtles don’t have teeth, but they do have a horny beak that they can use to tear at their food.

They are omnivores, starting the first weeks of their lives eating only plants, but by their second month, they move on to invertebrates like cephalopods (cuttlefish and squid), sponges, sea urchins, crabs and even coral.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the luxury business that had built up around the hawksbill turtle’s shell led to the species’ endangerment. It is currently protected by the Washington Convention, which regulates international trade in endangered flora and fauna (CITES).

Those protective measures concern the adult turtles, as well as their eggs and juveniles, regardless of whether they are alive or dead, and are applicable on an international scale with more than 90 nations having ratified the treaty.

Discover the missions of the Center for Studies and Care for Sea Turtles

The hawksbill turtle gets its species name (imbricata, meaning 'overlapping') from the positions of its scales, laid out like the tiles on a roof.

Marine Turtles


Species encyclopedia

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