The Sparrowhawk

The Garden Bird's Predator with speed and surprise

Sparrowhawks are without doubt and amazing and beautiful bird, but if there are any close to your home, a bird feeder is an ideal fast food Restaurant for them.

Sparrowhawk by Bird Feeders

Living mainly on the tops of tall trees, they will leave their nests flying a steady climb to a height where they can glide along with thermals constantly looking down for Prey. Once they've seen something, they will swoop at high speed and snatch the bird from the air. There's no fighting, once they have targeted, it's rare for a bird to get away.

A good indicator they are about is with Pigeons. Should they suddenly fly off and go quiet, the chances are there's a Sparrowhawk about. Word soon get's round. Smaller birds will give an alarm call. Quite often there is a deathly silence in the air.

The size of their Prey doesn't appear to come into it, the photo below shows a Jackdaw who was caught in mid flight or maybe just sitting on a roof top. If Sparrowhawks are nesting in a Wood, look around the sides and the chances are you will find many remains of Pigeons.

Sparrowhawk after downing a Jackdaw
Photo: Taken through Glass - the prey is a Jackdaw © GMK - Kent

One thing the Gardener has to watch is feeding Birds on Tables. The Sparrowhawk learns it's hunting ground like a London Cabbie learns 'the Knowledge'. They know every shortcut, every turning and to see them approaching through trees is like watching a Superman movie.

The picture above shows a female, the male's are more colourful with blueish wings and a slightly red breast. Surprisingly they are not big, up to 15" long and a wingspan maximum of 30".

I have had the pleasure(sorry) of seeing one in action, it flew through the wood close by, low level, straight out the side and snatched a small bird. I don't know what the bird was.

Nature sometimes seems cruel, but it's nature, a part of the chain, survival of the fittest, law of the jungle etc. Every creature has a purpose and left alone, it all balances out.


Sparrowhawks are usually only seen by looking steeply upwards..

Sparrowhawk in flight

Sparrowhawk's eyes

There are those who oppose Predator Birds such as Sparrowhawks, Buzzards, even Magpies.

Understandable maybe, but the chances of smaller birds becoming extinct through natural behaviour (the law of the Jungle) compared to the huge number of bird population decrease due to us Human's want to snatch green and brown fields is almost zero.

Let nature alone and it will take care of itself. Respect it and it will respect you.

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