Every encounter with an endangered sea turtle is special, but it can be tough to detect which species you actually saw. If the turtle is about 3 feet long, has a brown hard upper shell with streaks and four costal scutes, it’s either a hawksbill or green sea turtle.
Scutes are the bony plate sections on the turtle’s back, and the costal scutes are the large ones touching the middle, or vertebral, scutes. To winnow it down from there, look closer.
The hawksbill sea turtle has an overhanging upper beak that looks like the bill of a, you guessed it, hawk. This is the easiest way to distinguish between the two, but can be deceiving at certain angles.
If you look at the space between the turtle’s eyes, you’ll see its prefrontal scales. The green sea turtle has one pair, while the hawksbill sea turtle has two.