Belongs to: birds of prey

Compare with: kestrel

Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus


Best time to see: all year

Key facts

Fast flying agile hawk of woodland, fields and gardens, relying on surprise attack when hunting

Habitat: forest, woods, fields, hedgerows, gardens, heath and coasts

Common and widespread resident, recovering from persecution and indirect pesticide poisoning in the past

Recognition

Male has slate-grey back, reddish barring below and prominent eyebrow, 28 cm; female is browner, 38 cm; broad wings

Often seen soaring or in dashing flight in pursuit of small birds; flaps with rounded wings for a few beats before gliding

Eats small birds up to the size of collared dove (but there is no evidence that this affects bird numbers long term)

Lifecycle

Female builds nest of twigs in trees; lays one brood of 4-5 white eggs with dark brown blotches, usually in late May

Male hunts while she is brooding the eggs and calls her to one of several 'plucking posts' to feed

Later both hunt to feed the young, which will eat 2 or 3 small birds each per day

  • Main photo

Photo © Alan Williams