Wilmslow Birders focus on Sparrowhawks.

Sparrowhawks are fast flying, highly manoeuvrable woodland predators which specialise in taking small birds. There are about 20 species which are mainly found in Africa, Eurasia and Australia.

The Eurasian Sparrowhawk takes advantage of human activity in urban areas. We spend time making gardens for our own enjoyment little realising that we are creating the ideal habitat for a predator. People place seed feeders in positions which allow them to see the birds through the windows little realising that their garden has become one big feeding station for the Sparrowhawk.


Wilmslow Birders have become a little pre-occupied with them at present as the following postings and replies show. The words in italics relate to the User Name of the person commenting.

This posting by Lapwing provides a gruesome example - I have recently had two sightings of Sparrowhawks with their prey in my garden. The first time the Sparrow hawk thrust a Blackbird from the fence on to the lawn and proceeded to peck at the Blackbird's head and neck. When the Blackbird went still, the Sparrowhawk flew off with its prey. On the second occasion I disturbed a Sparrowhawk with a grounded Collared Dove. The Sparrowhawk flew off leaving its prey. On inspection the Collared Dove was dead but had its eyes pecked out and possibly a broken neck- it was dead.

Applepud responded - I don't know if pecking the eyes out of prey is normal behaviour, but it would seem to be a good strategy. A blind collared dove could presumably fly, but since it wouldn't know where it was flying, it would soon be caught by the sparrowhawk.

A posting by Goldcrest reminded us that the Sparrowhawk is actually a splendid bird - I walked into the kitchen and perched on the fence some 12 feet away was a male Sparrowhawk eating its breakfast - a small tit. He looked absolutely splendid, with his rufous breast and blue/grey wings almost like a cape around his shoulders. My movement disturbed him and he flew off, with the remnants of his meal still in his talons.

Lapwing was watching a Sparrowhawk again on 9th August. Today, in the Harrier hide at Martin Mere, we saw a Sparrowhawk fly over the reeds and flush a Snipe, which flew off in the opposite direction to the Sparowhawk. Initially we thought this was a one-off, but the Sparrowhawk continued flying low over the reeds and flushing snipe until it went to a local tree for a rest. Half an hour or so later in another hide, at the other end of the reserve (can't remember its name), we again saw a Sparrowhawk flying low over the reeds and flushing Snipe. It didn't manage to catch one when we were watching. I suppose it caught one at some time. The Sparrowhawks behaviour was reminescent of a Marsh Harrier, but it was definitely a Sparrowhawk (other much better bird watchers then me identified it on both occaisions!).

Recently I read in "The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England" by Ian Mortimer that the young Edward 11 hunted Partridges with Sparrowhawks, although protocol at that time regarded Sparrowhawks as suitable for the clergy (a Gyrfalcon being suitable for the King because of the ability to catch large birds, such as Cranes and Herons! - just imagine watching that).

PS 1. Does anybody know if it is normal for Sparrowhawks to attack the eyes of the prey in the initial stages of the kill?
PS 2. Has anybody photographed other species of Sparrowhawk?

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License