After a long break in terms of blog posts, I have finally decided to make another blog post again.
If you have read some of my previous blog posts, you may know that I have had lots of encounters with Sparrowhawks this year. As I have had so many, I have decided to make a blog post about Sparrowhawks, and also about some more of my recent encounters.
Sparrowhawks are probably one of my favourite birds of prey due to their striking plumage, especially of the male, and also their amazing ability to manoeuvre and hunt at high speeds.
Sparrowhawks can be found all over the UK, apart from in the very far North of Scotland. They often live in gardens in urban and rural areas, and also in areas of farmland and wetland, although, they are traditionally found in woodland, and primarily, this is where they tend to breed.
There is a big difference between the male and the female birds, with the males being fairly small birds of prey with a bluish grey back, and some orange and white underparts. The females however, are much larger and have a greyish brown back, with brown and white underparts. Due to this difference in size, the males tend to hunt on smaller birds, like Tits, whereas, the females tend to prey on larger birds like Blackbirds, and even up to Woodpigeon size. Although, they both usually hunt using surprise as they dash through trees and vegetation. Their incredible speed and manoeuvrability in pursuit allows them to sneak up close before chasing smaller birds through areas which most birds that size wouldn’t even get through, let alone at that speed. However, due to the numerous birds looking out for them, as soon as they are seen, the alarm call is raised, and they have lost their benefit of undetection, hence why only around one in ten hunts results in a catch.
When breeding, Sparrowhawks time the hatching of their chicks so that the chicks hatch at the same time that most smaller birds’ chicks fledge and leave the nest. Therefore, as fledglings make fairly easy pickings for Sparrowhawks, there is generally plenty of food around for the chicks, and not much chance of shortage.
There are roughly 35,000 breeding birds in the UK, and although their numbers faced a major decline in the past, they are now much more stable. Unlike most birds of prey, Sparrowhawks don’t usually live any more than three years – a relatively short lifespan.
In addition to my previous encounters, I have also had many more sightings, but one of the most amazing recent ones was in my garden. One of them was where I was playing badminton outside in the garden, when suddenly a male Sparrowhawk came soaring straight over the net, where it narrowly missed colliding with a shuttlecock that I had just hit. Again, like in previous posts, it was incredible to see such a beautiful bird up close, and also how it has adapted to survival in urban environments. It was clearly now much more tolerant of humans around it. Amazingly, I still not seen a Sparrowhawk actually hunt successfully and kill a bird, but maybe this will in time come. I am also greatly hoping that I will get to ring one of these birds soon, and see them up close, although I am not sure about whether I really want to hold one with those talons and beak.