Thursday, 20 August 2009 07:56

The sparrow hawk

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One day in August 2009, we had an unexpected visitor on the patio in the form of a sparrow hawk.
She had flown at some speed against one of the north-facing windows, and fell stunned onto the patio. By chance I had my camera at hand and was able to take a couple of pictures. I think this was a female bird from the markings, and she recovered quickly. In doing so she turned over allowing a photograph of her underside before flying off. The whole incident lasted less than two minutes, and though I was tempted to "help", it wasn't necessary and my only contribution was to make sure that one of our cats didn't chance his luck.

Sparrow hawks are very common throughout Europe. They are found in woodlands, along hedgerows and in parks and gardens. They are usually seen flying fast and low in pursuit of prey, or soaring high on rounded wings. Their wings and long tail are adapted for flying between trunks and branches enabling them to weave in and out of trees at high speed. They never hover like kestrels.

Adult males have a slate grey back and white underparts, closely barred with orange. Their grey tail has 4-5 dark bars. Females are larger, with brown upperparts, a white stripe over the eye and dark barring underneath. The male is up to 25 % smaller than the female - the largest difference between the sexes in any bird species.

The diet consists of small birds such as tits, sparrows and finches, though the more powerful female can eat thrushes and starlings. The sparrow hawk is a common and widely distributed species and is not considered to be threatened at this time.

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