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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, Matti Huuskonen, M., W. & F. von Wright: Pohjolan linnut värikuvin. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Sparrowhawk

Accipiter nisus

  • Family: Hawks – Accipitridae
  • Appearance: A small bird of prey with a long tail, and short, wide, blunt-ended wings.
  • Size: Length 29–41 cm (11.5–16 in), wingspan 58–80 cm (22.5–31 in), weight, male 130–175 g (5–7 oz), female 220–345 g (9–14 oz).
  • Nest: Loose nest of twigs, always in the lower half of a tree, lined with thin strips of pine bark, not decorated with leafy branches.
  • Breeding: 3–6 eggs laid from late April, incubated by female for 33–34 days. Young birds able to fly within 26–28 days.
  • Distribution: Nests in forests, especially moist and marshy spruce forests. Found throughout Finland. Finnish population numbers 7,000–10,000 pairs.
  • Migration: Heads south from August to winter around the Baltic Sea or in Western or Central Europe, returning March-May. Also commonly winters in Finland (as the most common overwintering hawk).
  • Diet: Small and medium-sized birds (sometimes as large as Magpie or Jay) and rodents.
  • Calls: Like Goshawk, but weaker. Warning call a persistent “ki-ki-ki-ki-ki”.

Male Sparrowhawks are smaller than females. Distinguishable from the similar though larger Goshawk by narrower root of tail, shorter wing secondaries, shorter neck and comparatively larger head. T-shaped in flight (unlike more cross-shaped Goshawk). Flight consists of a few swift wing-beats followed by a long flat glide. Also likes to soar.

Sparrowhawks have greyish brown upperparts and paler underparts crossed with dense stripes. Mature males older than 3–5 years develop grey backs and wings, and rusty red underparts. Mature females have no rusty colouring, but their backs also turn grey. Juveniles have rusty brown backs and their striped chests are also marked with rusty brown spots. Their rusty colouring fades over the years, and their backs gradually turn greyish brown as their underparts become whiter with regularly spaced dark stripes. Sparrowhawks have greenish yellow legs and blue-grey beaks with greenish yellow ceres. The irises of young birds are pale yellow, turning brighter yellow or orange with age.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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