A frantic exodus of birds can only mean one thing, a predator, a feared Collared Sparrowhawk.
Looking out from my kitchen window, I witness and hear a chaotic scramble of birds taking flight away from the serenity of my backyard. These birds, which include Sparrows, Spotted Doves, Crested pigeons and Miners, are easily startled, but on this occasion, my sense was they feared for their life.
As stepped outside my feeling was confirmed, sitting quietly, almost nonchalantly on a branch of my apple tree was a Collared Sparrowhawk (Accipiter cirrocephalus), a striking deadly raptor and bird of prey.
Skilled in hunting small birds, this regular visitor has been particularly attracted by sparrows and various other small birds that frequent my and neighbours’ backyards in the northern suburbs of Melbourne Australia.
Confident and relaxed, this modern feathered dinosaur (a Velociraptor to be exact) was not all unsettled my schoolboy type enthusiasm to set up my camera to capture images. Occasionally it gave me the death stare with those wide, piercing yellow eyes, perhaps warning me to keep my distance.
Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird? – Sir David Attenborough
Found in woodlands and forests across Australia, the Collared Sparrowhawk, is handsomely marked, with slate-grey wings and head, chestnut rear neck collar and reddish-brown and cream banded chest and front.
Living an average of only 4 years, males and female Collared Sparrowhawks are similar in appearance; However, females are larger than males.
Birds of Prey or raptors females are between 20-100 percent larger than the males. This is the opposite to most other birds, where males are larger than females.
A distinguishing feature of the Collared Sparrowhawk is that it has long thin wiry yellow legs and a very long middle toe which it uses to clutch its unfortunate victim. This is one feature that differs from the Brown Goshawk in which it is generally mistaken for.
My charismatic visitor eventually tired of my antics and flew off, perhaps to enchant another mere mortal or more likely, to find a meal.