Sparrowhawks hunt wherever there is lots of prey. Sparrowhawks use short bursts of energy to catch their prey which means they ambush their prey so that they do not have to chase them far. Sparrowhawks can fly at speeds of up to 50 mph in short bursts. Songbirds are also quick so the Sparrowhawk only has about three seconds to catch its prey before the bird has managed to get away and hide out of reach. Because small birds are wary of predators like the Sparrowhawk , they will warn other birds when they spot the Sparrowhawk and more often than not all hide before the Sparrowhawk is anywhere near them. An attack from a Sparrowhawk is only successful ten percent of the time.

You can identify what species a sparrowhawk has been feeding on from feathers left behind at the plucking post.  The following images are of wing feathers of some common prey species taken from Michel Klemann (


Song thrush

Blue tit

Great tit


Chaffinch tail feathers


Goldfinch tail feathers


House sparrow