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Animal Detail ViewՄանրամասն` նրանց մասին

27.02.2012

Eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)


Scientific classification: 

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Accipiter
Species: Accipiter nisus

 

Description

Eurasian sparrowhawks are one of the smallest diurnal raptors in Europe. Sexual dimorphism is strong. Females show a different coloration and are much larger than male individuals. Whereas males achieve a weight between 110 – 196 gram, a body length between 29 to 34 centimeters and a wingspan from 59 to 64 centimeters, females are between 25 – 50 % heavier and larger. Moreover the upperpart of the male Eurasian sparrowhawk is blue-grayish, the underpart is white to red-barred. The body of the other gender and juveniles ranges between brown and gray and the ventrally is brown-barred or spotted. Females are also recognized by a pale spot on their neck.

The individuals of the species have a small head, relatively short wings, a slim body and a long, notched tail. This body structure provides maneuverability and speed. A typical characteristic of the Eurasian sparrowhawk is its long and slim legs. A sharp hocked beak enables the bird to pull its prey apart and to plug feathers.

The highest age of a wild Eurasian sparrowhawk was recorded as 20 years. However, usually the birds achieve just an average age of 3 years. The mortality rate among young male Eurasian sparrowhawks is in particular high during their first two months of becoming independent. This is due to their small size, which limits the size of prey and causes that the juvenile and still inexperienced hunters are unable to catch enough food. It has been estimated that a female Eurasian sparrowhawk of average weight could survive for seven days without feeding – three days longer than a male of average weight

Range and habitat

The range encompasses a wide area in Europe, Asia and Africa from the Canary Islands and Ireland to Japan and Kamchatka. Predominately the species inhabits coniferous forests, but in Middle- and West Europe it is also seen in temperate and Mediterranean regions. The Eurasian sparrowhawk lives in forests near to open hunting grounds and glades. It is also found in agricultural areas or parks. Areas with only deciduous trees are rarely inhabited, as the Eurasian sparrowhawk prefers mixed woodlands which provide prey in form of smaller birds. During winter migratory populations are especially seen in woodless areas.

Habitat range of this species includes Armenia

Behavior

Eurasian sparrowhawks live solitary or in monogamous breeding pairs. If they live as a pair they defend their territory which comprises up to 35 square kilometers from other con-specifics. Depending on their habitat the birds are sedentary or migratory. Eurasian sparrowhawks living in Great Britain are sedentary, whereas birds in Central, East, and North Europe travel to southern regions in winter. Vocalization occurs only in the own breeding territory. During the breeding season Eurasian sparrowhawks can be very noisy at their nest-site and surroundings but these calls can only be heard about short distances and are used in order to communicate with individuals of the other gender or in case of intruders in the home range.
To attract a mate, males perform sky displays. The very good eyesight of the Eurasian sparrowhawk enables it to capture its small prey. Furthermore the species can perceive different depth and can differentiate colors, which also helps to identify prey.
The sense of smell is hardly developed, but the sense of taste helps them to discover if food is wholesome.

Diet

Eurasian sparrowhawks are carnivores. More than 95% of their prey is small birds; the rest consists out of mammals and sometimes also insects, lizards and amphibians. Most hunted are ground feeding birds for example finches, warblers and thrushes. Juvenile Eurasian sparrowhawks mostly hunt fledging birds. The larger females hunt larger animals in more open landscapes whereas the males search smaller prey in more wooded and covered areas. During hunting they hide at a place until their prey is near and catch it by flying fast to the ground. If an area provides hunting success it will be visited several times.
Normally the birds have a certain plucking place about 30 meters away from the nest. Captured prey is plucked there before it is brought to the nest or eaten.

Reproduction

During mating season Eurasian sparrowhawks live in monogamous pairs but the partners may change in the following year. If a pair remains together and stays in the same territory depends on breeding success and supply of food. In order to attract the female, the male performs displays and offer its prey to the future partner. The nest is built in spring (April) out of dry branches without leaves. Four weeks later the female lays 4 to 6 eggs that have an average weight of 20 gram. Incubation for approximately 33 days is the duty of the female as well as the defending of the nesting site whereas the male hunts and feeds. When the young Eurasian sparrowhawks fledge, the mother often begins also to hunt in order to provide enough food for all nestlings. After around 30 days the parents stop to feed and the young birds are forced to become independent. There is a high mortality rate amongst the nestlings in the first three days after hatching caused by a lack of food or the case that they are dragged out of the nest by their own mother. In an age of 1 to 3 years a Eurasian sparrowhawk achieves sexual maturity.

Conservation Status

Eurasian sparrowhawks were chased since the middle of the 19th century in order to protect singing birds. According to the high reproduction this had only less influence on the population size of the species. In the mid of the 20th century the reproduction rate of Eurasian sparrowhawks declined drastically because of pesticide pollution of their prey. The affected birds laid eggs with fragile shells which broke during incubation. This resulted in the fact that the species almost disappeared in agricultural areas. Bans and strong restrictions of using the pesticide DDT caused a recovering of the populations. Therefore the Eurasian sparrowhawk is qualified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Short Facts

  • Conflicts between humans and Eurasian sparrowhawks often arise because the birds hunt popular singing birds and racing pigeons. However, studies of racing pigeon deaths found that Eurasian sparrowhawks were responsible for less than 1%.

  • Because of the big difference in size, the male normally avoids direct contact with the female

  • The name of the species emerged because of their hunting habits on smaller birds as sparrows.

  • The Eurasian sparrowhawk has been used in falconry for centuries and was favored by Emperor Akbar the Great (1542–1605) of the Mughal Empire.

  • In Georgia there is a strong tradition of trapping migrant Eurasian sparrowhawks to train them for falconry using them to hunt Common quail.



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