1247. Accipiter nisus.
Falco nisus, Linn. Syst. Nat. i, p. 130 (1766). Falco nisosimilis, Tickell, J. A. S. B. ii, p. 571 (1833). Accipiter subtypicus, Hodgs. in Gray's Zool. Misc. p. 81 (1844), descr. nulla. Accipiter nisus, Blyth, Cat. p. 21; Horsf. & M. Cat. i, p. 35; Jerdon, B. I i, p. 51; id. His, 1871, p. 243; Hume, Rough Notes, p. 124; id. N. & E. p. 25 ; Sharpe, Cat. B. M. i, p. 132; Hume, S. F. iv, p. 280; xi, p. 7; id. Cat. no. 24; Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, p. 10; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 181; id. in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 122 ; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 24. Accipiter melanoschistus, Hume, 2 to 1869, p. 356; id. Rough Notes, p. 128; Blanf. S. F. v, p. 482 ; Hume, S. F. vii, p. 333 ; id. Cat. no. 24 bis; Biddulph, His, 1881, p. 41.
The European Sparrow-Hawk, Jerdon; Basha , Bashin* H.; Warnapa dega, Tel.
Coloration. Adult male. Upper parts slaty grey, some birds darker than others, the white bases of the feathers showing more or less on the nape and supercilia; feathers of scapulars, rump, and upper tail-coverts, and sometimes of the back, dark-shafted ; quills dark brown above, whitish beneath, with broad blackish cross-bands ; tail generally with 4 (sometimes 5) cross-bars on the middle feathers, 5 or 6 on the outer, the last bar broadest and sub-terminal, tips of feathers white; lower parts white or buff, the feathers more or less distinctly dark-shafted; breast and flanks very often suffused with rusty red, the throat with a few dark shaft-lines; the breast, abdomen, and thigh-coverts rather irregularly barred with rufous-brown, the bars usually as broad as the interspaces, but in very old birds either rusty red or narrow and dark brown ; under tail-coverts white.
Adult females are browner above, and less rufous beneath, with the dark shafts to the feathers of the breast more conspicuous.
Young birds are brown above, the feathers with rufous edges at first, the white very conspicuous on the nape and supercilia; lower parts white, buff, or brownish buff; feathers of the breast, abdomen, and lower wing-coverts with dark shafts and spade- or heart-shaped rufous-brown spots with dark edges ; these spots pass into bars.
Bill bluish grey; cere, legs, and toes yellow, claws black; irides yellow in young birds, orange in old.
Sexes very different in size. Length of female about 15; tail 7; wing 9.5 ; tarsus 2.4 ; mid toe without claw 1.6 ; bill from gape .85: in the male, length about 13; tail 6.5 ; wing 8 ; tarsus 2.1.
Distribution. Throughout Europe and Northern Asia ; a winter visitant to the Peninsula of India, China, and Northern Africa. It is found in the Indian Peninsula in jungly and well wooded hilly tracts, not in dense forest nor in very open country; it is rare in Burma, and has not been hitherto obtained in Ceylon. It is resident and breeds on the Himalayas; the Himalayan race, which is rather large (wing in females 10 to 10.5) and very dark-coloured above, in females especially, having been distinguished by Hume as melanoschistus. This form, however, cannot be regarded as more than a variety.
Habits, &c. The Sparrow-Hawk is everywhere known for its swiftness and courage ; it keeps principally to woodland tracts and glides amongst trees and bushes with marvellous ease. It feeds chiefly on birds and captures them up to the size of a pigeon. It is easily trained, and the female has been taught to take partridges and sand-grouse, but is generally used for smaller prey. It breeds in the Himalayas in May and June, builds a rough nest of sticks on a tree, or takes possession of a deserted crow's nest, and lays usually 4 eggs, but sometimes as many as 6 or 7. These are bluish white, oval, much spotted and blotched with rufous-brown, especially towards the broader end, and measure about 1.7 by 1.3.
* As noticed by Blyth, J. A. S. B. xix, p. 331, Basha is a masculine noun and, it may be added, Bashin is feminine. It is not probable that native falconers mistake the sex of Hawks, as they evidently know those of Falcons.