A bird of prey that frequently hunts birds in gardens.
Sparrowhawk: the ups and downs
I find it difficult to describe the status of the sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) in Dorset. It is far from common that is for sure but, that said, they are frequently seen although they can be somewhat elusive due to their hunting technique of flying silently, quickly and low along hedgerows and through gardens. During the middle of the last century, the 1950s and 60s in particular, numbers fell to dangerously low levels and this was linked to the use of DDT on farms affecting their food chain. Since DDT was banned numbers have recovered to a more secure level. There are people I have met who, amazingly I think, blame the decline of garden song birds on the rise of the sparrowhawk ... I despair sometimes!
The sparrowhawk is a resident breeding species in Dorset and there are reports for most weeks during the year but strangely reports get a bit patchy from week 19 towards the end of May until week week 29 at the beginning of July; this is obviously during the breeding season. One would perhaps expect them to be more visible whilst out seeking food for their young? I can only surmise that it is to do with a small movement away from urban gardens where they like to hunt when their prey species are feeding on nut bags and seed feeders to more remote conifer and mixed woodland plantations to breed. They will then be hunting closer to their nest and will be much harder to see. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues as data accumulates in future years.
There are reports for fifty one sites so far and many of these are in suburban settings. The Bournemouth conurbation and the Weymouth area produce a lot of the sightings but open downland sites also feature on the list. On downland they will prey on species such as linnet and meadow pipit. They do not seem to favour heathland though.
If you keep watch on your garden bird feeders during the winter months you will have a pretty good chance of adding sparrowhawk to your Dorset list.
|Scientific Name||Accipiter nisus|
|Species Group||Birds Raptors|
The lazy flap, flap, glide flight high in the the sky
|Additional Identification Notes|