Bird Families

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) Engl


Area: widespread species - North America, Europe and Asia, North Africa.

Description: The female sparrowhawk is larger than the male. The wings are wide, short and rounded. The tail is long, narrow at the base, and square at the end. Paws are long yellow. At the base of the beak there are several setae hanging over the nostrils.

Color: the back of the male is gray-gray, of the female is gray-brown, the underside of the male is white with reddish-brown or brown transverse stripes, of the female is white with gray stripes. The beak is gray-blue, the eyebrow is white, the cheeks are red. Sometimes there is a whitish spot on the back of the head. There are three or four stripes on the tail.
Eyes and waxes of adult birds are orange, in juveniles they are pale yellow. Older birds have orange-red eyes. Young birds are similar in color to females, but the edges of the feathers are buffy, the belly is less striped and the underside of the wings has a brown bloom.
Downy chicks have a dark ring around their eyes.

The size: male body length 28 cm, female - 40 cm, male wing 19.6-21.2 cm, female - 23.1-25.6), male wingspan 59-65, female 68-77 cm.

The weight: male 130-150 g, female 250-320 g.

Life span: in nature, presumably up to 5-8 years (few birds live to old age). On average, about 48% of sparrowhawks are killed by collisions. when pursuing prey, they do not monitor their own safety, 11% were shot, 14% from bleeding, 9% from hunger, 4% from diseases, the remaining 14% - the causes of death are unknown.

Vote: Accipiter_nisus.wav - 204 Kb
In winter, the sparrowhawk is usually quiet, and can be heard during the breeding season - it is a fast and loud "ki-ki-ki" or "ki-kyu-kyu-kyu" (mating call of the male).

Habitat: woodlands (coniferous, small-leaved and broad-leaved forests) with open spaces, preferably the presence of nearby open water bodies. In the cold season, it can be found in settlements.

Food: small songbirds (sparrows, tits, starlings, blackbirds, pigeons, partridges, warblers, hazel grouses, crows, woodpeckers, waders, crossbills), rodents (mice, rabbits), amphibians (frogs), insects and small mammals (bats) ...
The female can catch a bird the size of a pigeon, the male hunts for smaller prey (sparrows and tits). More than 95% of the total diet consists of birds (over 120 species).

Behavior: Sparrowhawk is a daytime predator, monogamous, hunts in open areas and the border of the forest. Sits motionless in cover most of the time.
It seizes prey on the fly (falls like a stone down, folding its wings, onto the chosen prey and chases it until it catches it, it is not distracted by other birds during the pursuit) or from an ambush. If necessary, the sparrowhawk in flight can turn upside down and capture prey from below. Can stalk prey on the ground. An adult hawk (on average) needs to catch two birds a day. The caught prey is first plucked on the selected stump or elevation, and then carried to the nest. In winter, it tears apart prey in the snow and immediately eats it. Males prefer to hunt in wooded areas, while females prefer to hunt in open spaces.
The flight is fast and maneuverable - it flies at a low altitude above the ground.
Populations in the northern areas of the range migrate.

Social structure: several individuals can hunt on one site, but at different times of the day.

Reproduction: Sparrowhawk - monogamous, the couple guards and protects the common territory. The next year, a new pair is created. It nests on one site every year, but builds a new one, not far from last year's. For the construction of nests, he prefers coniferous trees 10-18 m high (he can choose trees growing near roads, fields and in city parks). The diameter of the nest is 30-50 cm, the height is 10-35 cm, the height at which the nest is built is 3-15 m. The nest itself is not strong and loose (without lining), made of thin branches, therefore it usually collapses by next spring.
Only the female incubates eggs, but both parents feed the chicks. The male feeds the female with small chicks, and she feeds the chicks. The female sits on the nest until the chicks are two weeks old.
In a clutch there are 4-7 white eggs with a dark or brown speck (35-48x29-35 mm in size).
When a man approaches, the female begins to fly around the nest, screaming, sometimes she begins to actively defend the nest.
On average, the distance between nests is 0.5-3 km.

Breeding season: begins when prey is abundant (young songbirds) - April-June.

Puberty: 1-2 years.

Incubation time: 35-42 days.

Offspring: Newborn chicks are like white fluffy balls.
Parents feed the chicks for about a month, so that all chicks survive, they need to catch and bring up to 10 small birds a day to the nest.
Chickens fledge at the age of 24-30 days.At the age of 28-32 days, the chicks leave the nest and move to adjacent branches, and return to the nest only at night. And after 3-4 weeks the chicks become completely independent and leave the nest for good.
The mortality rate among young sparrowhawks is very high - only 12 out of 100 will survive to puberty.

Benefit / harm to humans: Sparrowhawk causes harm by destroying songbirds and insectivorous birds.
Since ancient times it has been used by humans for hunting, because he is easy to tame and quick to train.

Population / conservation status: The main threat to the species is the use of pesticides, which makes the eggshell thinner. Some individuals die from poisoning by eating granivorous birds that have eaten poisoned grain. The species is included in Appendix II of the CITES Convention.
It is known three subspecies of sparrowhawk: Accipiter nisus nisus, Accipiter nisus nisosimili, Accipiter nisus dementjevi.

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