Scientific name: Accipiter nisus
Size: Approx 30 to 35cm
Distribution: Found in most parts of the U.K.
Months seen: All year round
Habitat: Parks, woods and open country. Frequently hunts in urban gardens
Food: Small birds, mice, frogs and insects
Special features: Sparrowhawks are the UK's second most common bird of prey (after the kestrel). They're quite a secretive bird so not frequently seen. The first sighting most people have of this bird is when it swoops down to snatch a small bird from their garden bird feeder.
The male sparrowhawk is almost half the weight of the female and has an orange-red tinge to his cheeks and barred breast. The female is more brown in colour. Sparrowhawks have long legs, broad rounded wings and a long tail.
When hunting they will often perch some distance from their prey in a concealed place before launching a surprise attack. Occasionally you'll catch a glimpse of one as it flashes by to snatch a small bird in its powerful talons. They come shooting in, like a precision guided missile, pluck the bird off it's perch, or out of the air, and fly off with it.
A pile of neatly plucked, unbroken feathers is often a sign that a sparrowhawk is in the area. If the feathers are torn and broken it's more likely to have been the work of a fox.