The Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk. Accipiter nisus.
All for one and one for all.

“ All for one and one for all”

The Sparrowhawk is now widespread over much of the UK and is the one bird of prey that you are most likely to see in your garden: a friend of mine recently posted a photograph on her Facebook page of a picture she had taken of a Sparrowhawk sitting nonchalantly on her birdbath in her suburban garden here in Cambridge.

It is a small bird around 28-38cm in Length. As with the majority of birds of prey the female is larger than the male and can be up to 25% bigger and twice as heavy, one of the largest differences between sexes in any bird of prey. Understandably then that when courting the male proceeds with caution and females have been known to kill their suitors. If the courtship is successful and breeding takes place then it’s the smaller more agile male that does all the hunting. The female in her turn tends the nest keeping her brood warm – at so young an age they are highly susceptible to changes of temperature. Later, only when they are older and fledged, will both parents go hunting to feed them

They are spectacular fliers and excellent at maneuvering between trees in the woodlands that are their favourite haunts. Their main prey are small birds with the larger female able to take on birds the size of Wood pigeons while her diminutive male partner tackles smaller birds such as Thrushes, Robins and Starlings.

The oldest known wild Sparrowhawk lived for 20 years but the average lifespan is just 2.7 years making it one of the shortest-lived bird of prey; 34% of young birds survive to be one year old a figure comparable with other birds of prey. In Falconry the female Sparrowhawk is known as a Spar and the male a Musket the word musket was only later applied to a small handgun used by soldiers who were then came to be called musketeers.

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