Species Of The Week Number 47: Sparrowhawk

40 years ago when I moved to Leeds the sight of a bird of prey in the city was highly unusual. Buzzards were largely confined to the South West of England, Red Kites had their only remaining breeding outpost in Wales, and Peregrine Falcons were yet to rediscover cities as high-rise nest sites.

In the 1980s Sparrowhawks were only beginning to recover from the devastating effects of organochlorine pesticides (now banned) which saw their populations crash after the second world war. The chemicals had caused their egg shells to become fragile and break during incubation.

Now all these raptors can be regularly seen on or near Meanwood Valley.

Sparrowhawks are most easily seen soaring over the valley with broad bodies and long tails and their distinctive 'flap-flap-glide' flight pattern. They can also be glimpsed hunting small birds through urban gardens with their fast direct flight, avoiding obstacles with smooth acrobatic ease.

The males have a distinctive blue-grey back and wings and orangey chest bars. Females have brown back and wings, and brown bars below.

As with all birds of prey the female is larger than the male - but with Sparrowhawks this is particularly pronounced. Females being around 25% bigger which gives them the ability to catch thrushes and pigeons whilst the males rely more on sparrows (obviously), finches and tits. Overall Sparrowhawks have been known to take more than 120 different bird species, plus a few bats for pudding.

Next time you spot one you can amaze your friends by telling them that falconers in Georgia use Sparrowhawks to catch Quail. These falconers or 'bazieri' are held in high esteem and even have a monument to them in in the city of Poti.

If thats not enough to impress then how about showing off your knowledge of Greek mythology? Greek King Megara was turned into a Sparrowhawk after his daughter Scylla cut off a lock of his hair.

Not a bad way to go to be fair.

Publicado el 15 de agosto de 2023 por clunym clunym


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