‘Old Bats’ Nature Blog, December 2017

December 2017

Sparrow Hawks


The numerous bird feeders which I provide for the birds, also provides an attraction for the Sparrowhawks. Like every living thing it needs to find food, so an area which seems to attract its prey is a logical place for it to hunt.

They fly incredibly fast and are amazingly agile.

I once watched one flying within the banks of a small river, ducking under the numerous hanging branches and dodging the hazards of sharp turns and leaning trunks of trees, which were abundant on the banks.

An experienced adult will be disciplined and target just one bird, ignoring the chaos of panicked and fleeing individuals around it and because it flies so fast, invariably catches its chosen prey. The inexperienced and young Sparrowhawk will often fall into the trap so beautifully illustrated by Aesop in the story of The Dog and the Shadow and try to catch as many birds as possible, thereby missing them all in its confusion.

Having just filled the feeders in the wood, I was sitting quietly as usual, watching the birds appear, fluttering in and out to collect some seed or nuts. Suddenly a great commotion of noise, panic, wings and twittering as the Blue Tits, Great Tits, Robins and Chaffinches scattered in all directions. A confused young Sparrowhawk landed on the high supporting wire, looking around with obvious disappointment, alone and food-less in the now silent wood.

I remained as much like a statue as possible and the bird seemed totally un-aware of me. It continued to perch, its young feathers ruffled and untidy and wobbling slightly as it tried to keep its balance on the narrow and slippery wire. Its whole appearance seemed to denote frustration and disappointment and after about eight minutes, it flew off.

About Sparrowhawks

The Sparrowhawk was given legal protection in 1966, having been persecuted in the past by gamekeepers and others who believed that it targeted chicks of game birds.

It is now quite common in wooded area of Britain and in rural gardens. The male has slate-grey upper parts and reddish-barred underparts. The female is more grey and larger than the male.

Both parents work hard to look after their young, which will eat two or three sparrow-sized birds every day.

Identification facts:

Size: 28 to 38cm.

Colour: Male slate grey and reddish-brown barred underparts. Female Grey, brown-barred

Habitat: Woodland, hedgerows and gardens.

Food:   Small birds. Female may take larger birds like Pigeons.

Sparrow Hawk Illustration