Accipiter – Sparrowhawks

These unique hawks prefer to eat other birds rather than insects or small mammals

Sparrowhawks are among the most widespread and adaptable birds of prey found across the globe, with various species residing in diverse habitats. The size of these hawks varies significantly among species within the genus, which includes some of the smallest raptors, like the Sharp-shinned Hawk, to the larger and more robust Northern Goshawk, comparable in size to a Red-tailed Hawk.

One of the defining characteristics of sparrowhawks is their wing and tail morphology. Their relatively short, rounded wings paired with long tails are evolutionary adaptations that equip them for a life spent darting through dense forests and woodland. This wing shape provides the agility and maneuverability required to navigate through trees at high speeds, essential for chasing down their agile prey. Their long tails act like rudders, aiding in swift directional changes during the hunt.

Sparrowhawks are specialized predators with a diet that reflects their adept hunting skills. They prey on a wide variety of species, with a known diet that includes over 500 different types of birds, indicating their versatility and adaptability as hunters. They are also known to feed on small mammals, insects, and reptiles, making them integral components of the ecosystems they inhabit by controlling the populations of these animals.

Sexual dimorphism is particularly pronounced in sparrowhawks, with females being noticeably larger than males, a trait common in many birds of prey. This size difference has important implications for their breeding and hunting behaviors. The larger females typically take larger prey and maintain order in the nest, while the smaller males are more agile, enabling them to catch smaller, more elusive prey. During the breeding season, the male’s primary role is to provide food for the female and the chicks, while the female is responsible for incubating the eggs and, later, protecting the nest.