The European hawk, a small bluish-gray raptor

The European hawk (Accipiter nisus) is one of the most currents of the old continent. It is observed in the countryside where it surprises its prey thanks to its flight dazzling. However, the bird tends to move closer to the centers urban where feeders attract his favorite meal: sparrows. Zoom on a small raptor common to our regions.

Presentation of the European hawk

The European hawk is characterized by a hooked bill, a yellow iris, broad rounded wings, a long tail, thin legs. yellow prolonged black claws. In this small raptor, the dimorphism sexual is noticed at the level of the plumage and especially of the size. The male wears an entirely gray coat slate while its chest and belly are white with pale red stripes. In females, the upperparts are slate-brown and the lower plumage is white with gray-brown barring. This is much more imposing than males (up to 25% larger, one of the biggest differences in size among all bird species). Size of the female: 35 to 40 cm; Wingspan: 65 to 80 cm; Weight: 180 to 350 g. Male size: 28 to 35 cm; Male wingspan: 58 to 65 cm; Male weight: 110 to 200 g.

Distribution area of ​​the European hawk

As its name suggests, the European hawk colonizes most of the old continent, the peninsula Iberian to the Scandinavian countries via Russia. The bird is also found in North and East Africa, the Middle East, Asia Central and South. In Europe, populations from the north migrate to the South from mid-August when they join the permanent residents. For example, specimens joining Spain often come from Sweden, Finland and Czechoslovakia. In France, the European hawk is sedentary. However, depending on the cold of winter, individuals from the east and mountainous areas may seek the warmth of the Mediterranean. A study of banded birds indicates that juveniles are more likely to migrate than the elderly. The same study finds that the power of females allows them to withstand more hostile climatic conditions than males and thus to migrate more tardily in the season.

Natural habitat of the European hawk

The European hawk frequents both wooded and open habitats: forests, edges, thickets, groves … hunt, the bird of prey likes areas rich in passerines such as grasslands and crops bordered by hedges. It is found around farms and in villages. However, the animal tends to move closer to the centers urban, city parks and gardens (if these are dense and dense) where it benefits from the food distributed by man. For nesting, the European hawk prefers mixed wood or composed of conifers allowing it to establish its nest there. Its numbers are scarce above 1000 meters above sea level.

Diet of the European hawk

Carnivorous, the European hawk mainly consumes menus birds: thrush, house sparrow, warblerfinch, blackbird, blackbird, great tit, starling, swallow, familiar robin … The male usually only attacks passerines small in size while the larger female can capture larger species such as turdids, wood pigeons or young pheasants. In winter, the little ones mammals as mice and shrews can be supplementary food

European hawk hunting technique

The European hawk spends most of its days in hunt because its success rate is low (10%) and the raptor must constantly get back to work. Its agility in flight allows it to create the effect of surprise to capture its prey. Most of the time it stays at thelookout, hidden under the plant cover – in hedges or bushes – and patiently awaits its victim. Once close to his target, he soars in a low, rapid flight and grabs it with lightning. Predator obstinate, if necessary, he finishes his run, on foot in the undergrowth. The raptor can also watch for feeders in gardens and parks to surprise the passerines that come to feed there.

Reproduction of the European hawk

The European hawk usually reaches its maturity sexual around the age of one or two. The pair often lasts only one season or several years in countries where the species is sedentary. In Western Europe, the raptor appreciates the conifers to install her nest that the female will build using plants (twigs, branches, bark). The shallow cup is lined with moulting feathers. The laying usually includes 4 to 6 eggs that the mother goes brood on average for 33 to 35 days. The chicks remain in the nest for a month and after theflight, the juveniles will depend on their parents for another 3 to 4 weeks.

European hawk: state of the populations

Among the main predators of the European hawk include some species of owls (tawny, barn owl) and owls but also some raptors (wood pigeons, golden eagles, peregrine falcons) and mammals (red fox, stone marten, pine marten). In the 1950s and 1960s, the population of the European hawk had largely declined due to pesticides of DDT type which weakened the shell of its eggs. Since the ban on these products, its numbers have significantly increased to the point that the species is no longer threatened. The lifetime of the European hawk is 15 to 18 years old in the wild.

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