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Nature Trail 23

Sparrow Hawk, Accipiter nisus

The sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus, is one of our smallest birds of prey, with males having a wingspan (the length from one wingtip to the other) of around 55-65cm. They are specialists at hunting small songbirds and pigeons. They hunt in woodland and gardens, though you will be very lucky to spot one as they are very cautious of humans.

Female sparrowhawks can be up to 25% bigger than the male. The size difference is probably because the male does most of the hunting during the breeding period and so needs to be more agile to catch its swift, flying prey.

Sparrowhawks have been slowly returning to our countryside after seeing severe declines in their numbers over the last 30 years. The main reason for their decline was because of the use of pesticides, which damaged the bird’s ability to make healthy eggs. It was also due to persecution by people, and some people still blame the sparrowhawks for the decline in songbird numbers, but there is no evidence to support this, and lots of evidence to show that a healthy prey and predator relationship maintains healthy populations.

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