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bird of prey Sparrowhawks

Identify It >   Birds Section >   Birds of Prey Section >   Sparrowhawks >

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.

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