Sparrowhawk - Hebridean Birds Sightings
Western Isles Birds - Sparrowhawks - ten years ago were only a passing migrant to the Western Isles, however now they are becoming more frequent and a few pairs do breed here.

The photo opposite is a female sparrowhawk one year old.

These birds were persecuted by pesticide poisoning, gladly the population is now recovering here.

Sparrowhawk Western Isles Bird Sightings
Bird Overview - Sparrowhawk
Latin name
Accipiter nisus

Now Recovering

Similar Species
The male sparrowhawk has a slate grey back with reddish barred underparts. THe female usually a lot larger bird has browner upperparts and pale barred underparts and also a characteristic white stripe above the eye.

Both sexes have a series of four or five bars on the tail. Young birds have reddish brown upperparts with some barring below

28 - 38 cms

These birds seen in the Western Isles, Scotland prefer open countryside and woodland although they are now often seen in gardens

These birds eat small birds - the males catching tits and finches - whilst the larger females catch pigeons and female thrushes

Call is a repetetive kek - kek - kek - although off the nest they are usually quiet


These birds, the sparrowhawks build a nest of twigs and sticks is made against the trunk of a tree. These birds are early nesters and build the nests in April.

Three to six eggs are laid at two-day intervals during May. Incubation lasts for 32-35 days and the eggs hatch in succession over two or more days, so that the chicks are different sizes. The female helps the chicks to break out of their shell. They are covered in pure white short down, and their eyes are already partly open when they hatch.

Succesive hatching is an adaptation to cope with an unpredictable food supply. If food is short, the youngest chick will die and reduce the brood to a manageable size. The chicks are very vulnerable in the first week of their lives as they arent able to ontrol their body temperature.

They are brooded almost constantly at this time, and then progressively less until they are able to do so. The female has sole care of the eggs and young, while the males' role (from egg-laying through to fledging) is to provide all food required by the female and the chicks. The female will hunt as the chicks get older, but only if the male is unable to catch adequate food by himself.

The chicks are ready to fledge when they are around four weeks old. Initially, they leave the nest for brief periods, but continue to return to it to be fed - and to sleep at night. Over time, they venture farther and spend longer periods away from the nest. Once their feathers are fully grown, they begin to chase other birds and practise the skills that will make them efficient hunters, able to feed themselves. Three or four weeks after fledging, the young will have learned to hunt, and then disperse establish their own hunting territories and begin independent life.

Misc. Info
In the 1950's the sparriwhawk was in trouble, its numbers being severely affected by the use of agricultural pest control chemicals like DDT. With higher tighter controls as we have at present this bird is now a lot more common throughout the UK.. After killing its prey the sparrowhawk will often take it to a regular perch to be plucked.

Its broad wings and long tail give great manoeuvrability in tight spaces and accuracy when hunting.

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