Status: Common resident, with occasional winter visitors from Continental Europe.
Conservation Concern: Green-listed in Ireland. The European population has been evaluated as Secure.
Identification: A small bird of prey (raptor) with broad wings with blunt wing tips and a long tail. Small hooked bill suitable for eating meat. Tail is banded in all plumages with four or five bands. The sexes are different in size, the female is larger than the male. Sparrowhawks have barred underparts in all plumages, with the barring extending across the underwings, breast, belly and flanks. Males are bluish-grey above and often have orangey-brown barring on the breast, belly and underwing coverts; the rest of the barring is brown. Females are grey above with brown-grey barring on the underparts. Juvenile birds are dark brown on the upperparts with finely marked feathers; the underparts are coarsely and irregularly barred.
Similar Species: Goshawk, Kestrel
Call: The main call a rapid high pitched chattering, which is usually only heard in the breeding season.
Diet: Usually small birds which are taken when perched or in flight, sometimes after a long chase. Attacks with one or both feet, will pursue prey on foot. Sparrowhawks often utilize hedge rows or other cover, flying low on one side and then crossing over to other side to surprise its prey. Is a master of flying in woodland where it can fly through small gaps in branches pursuit of its prey, displaying great agility. Will use woodland edges, rides as well as any cover, especially cover that adjoins woodland. Will even pursue prey birds on foot over the ground.
Breeding: Probably the most common bird of prey in Ireland. Widespread in woodland, farmland with woods, larger parks and gardens. Nests in trees. Breeds throughout Ireland but is scarce in the west, where tree cover is low. Formally bird of woodland, it is now also found extensively in wooded farmland and will venture into urban gardens, where small birds attracted to bird feeders are taken, much to some peoples distress.
Wintering: Resident in Ireland. Can be seen throughout the country, although numbers will be low in the some parts of the west. Resident birds will be joined by wintering birds from Britain and Europe.
Where to See: Many people see these birds in their gardens, where they will be hunting on small birds. Can be difficult to spot in the countryside but will often give good views, when flying over head, where it may on 'prospecting' flights.
Monitored by: Countryside Bird Survey & Garden Bird Survey.