Sparrowhawk

Scientific name: Accipiter nisus

Did you know: Female Sparrowhawks can be up to 25% larger than males – a remarkable size difference in the avian world!

What Do Sparrowhawks Look Like? (how to identify them)

Sparrowhawks are small yet formidable birds of prey, easily recognised in their woodland haunts. Males boast a striking bluish-grey back with a unique orangey-brown barred chest and belly. In contrast, females and young Sparrowhawks wear a brown plumage with brown bars underneath. 

Their bright yellow or orangey eyes, paired with yellow legs and talons, make them a sight to behold. Both genders share a wingspan ranging from 55 to 70 cm and can be up to 38 cm in length.

Differences Between Male and Female Sparrowhawks

Sexual dimorphism is quite prominent in Sparrowhawks. Females are notably larger than their male counterparts – a common trait in birds of prey. This size difference is not just a trivial matter; it’s a remarkable adaptation that allows for a diverse hunting strategy between the sexes.

What Do Sparrowhawks Eat?

In the realm of diet, Sparrowhawks are specialists in bird hunting. Their primary menu consists of smaller birds like finches, tits, and sparrows. 

Males typically hunt smaller species, while females can tackle larger prey such as thrushes and starlings. This dietary choice plays a significant role in their hunting behaviour and habitat preference.

Where Do Sparrowhawks Live? (inc. migration info)

Sparrowhawks have a versatile choice of habitat, ranging from urban and suburban areas to farmlands and wetlands. They are particularly adapted to dense woodlands which provide ample hunting opportunities. 

Interestingly, these birds display migratory behaviour, with those from northern regions moving south during winter, while their southern counterparts often stay put or make short-range movements.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Sparrowhawks)

The vocal expressions of Sparrowhawks are as unique as their hunting skills. They produce high-pitched, sharp calls, especially during the breeding season. These calls serve as communication between mates and also play a role in territorial displays.

Fun Sparrowhawk Facts (kid friendly)

  • Sparrowhawks can fly at remarkable speeds, especially when swooping down on their prey.
  • They have a unique “flap-flap-glide” pattern in flight.
  • A Sparrowhawk’s eyes change colour as it ages, from greenish in youth to a deep orange or red in adulthood.
  • These birds are masters of surprise, often catching their prey off guard.
  • Sparrowhawks have been part of human culture and folklore for centuries, even featuring in works by Shakespeare.
  • Despite their fierce hunting skills, Sparrowhawks only have a successful hunting rate of about 10%.
  • They can live up to 4 years in the wild, with the oldest recorded Sparrowhawk living over 20 years!
  • The female Sparrowhawk lays 4-5 eggs, which are incubated for about 33 days.
  • Juvenile Sparrowhawks are more brown in colour and take some time to develop the adult’s striking plumage.
  • Sparrowhawks have adapted well to urban environments and can often be spotted in city parks and gardens.

Sparrowhawk Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile

Facts About The Sparrowhawk

Diet: Mainly small birds, but 120 different species have been recorded. Males can catch birds up to thrush size, but females, being bigger, can catch birds up to pigeon size. Some sparrowhawks catch bats.
Bird Family: Kites, hawks and eagles
Length: 28-38cm
Wingspan: 55-70cm
Weight: 110-196g (male); 185-342g (female)
Scientific Name: Accipiter nisus

The Sparrowhawk Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December