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          SPARROWHAWK. Accipter nisus

‘The Priest's Hawk’

IDENTIFICATION. Similar, but smaller, than a Goshawk. The males are slate grey with a rusty red tinge to the chest plumage. Females are brown in colour with a white stripe over the yellow eye. On both sexes the chest is barred and 4-5 dark bars across the long tail. Broad rounded wings distinguish it from the similarly sized Kestrel. The flight varies from dashing between trees for small birds, using its long tail as a brake, to soaring and circling flights.

Can be mistaken for Kestrels. Females are much larger, dimorphic, than the males and could be mistaken for a male Goshawk.

IN FLIGHT.  The display flight is similar to the Goshawk's. The Sparrowhawk spirals high into the air on a rising thermal and performs a series of undulating glides across the sky. These are more acrobatic than the 'Gos'. Direct flight is low and fast, using such features as hedges and ditches as cover to 'ambush' its prey. Hunting is fast, furious and acrobatic snatching prey out of the air in a twisting chase flight.

DISTRIBUTION. Widespread, but rarely seen, in both town and country. Usually glimpsed as a blur dashing across your garden. Often blamed for the decline of garden birds. However a bird of prey only kills what it needs to survive, maybe a closer look at garden practices and feline pets would be worthwhile.

WHEN SEEN. All year round.

DISTRIBUTION. Widespread, but rarely seen, in both town and country. Usually glimpsed as a blur dashing across your garden. Often blamed for the decline of garden birds. However a bird of prey only kills what it needs to survive, maybe a closer look at garden practices and feline pets would be worthwhile.

FOOD. Mainly small birds.      

BREEDING. April. 4 to 5 eggs laid in abandoned  crows nest. Young hatch after 4 - 5 weeks, flying 1 month later.

SIZE. 28-38cm (11-15in)

WEIGHT. 110-135g (4oz -12oz)

WINGSPAN. 55cm-70cm (1ft 10in- 2ft 4in)

CALL. kek-kek-kek or a kitten like Mew

FALCONRY.

I once saw a Sparrowhawk, in pursuit of a bird just a few feet away from me, complete a tight 360 degree turn around a vertical tree branch before gently 'lifting' the prey out of the air and fly off with it into a hedge. Flights like this endear the Sparrowhawk to Austringers across the country and show that big is not always best.

The weight of a Sparrowhawk , 4oz-7oz for a Musket (male)  8oz-12oz for a Spar (female), make them prone to going underweight when flown and therefore easily killed if not flown by an experienced falconer. Many Austringers recommend a few years flying a Goshawk before attempting to fly this little Accipter.

On the plus side you do not need a great deal of flying ground to witness the acrobatic and breath taking flights.

NB. If you buy one of these raptors it should be fitted with a closed leg ring and have an Article 10 form with it (any queries check with DEFRA).

 Falconry marks
 

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