SPARROW-HAWK, Acripiter nisus
A common resident; numerous in the wilder unpreserved parts of the county.
This dangerous and recklessly courageous bird was very plentiful at Stone Hall, where we suffered much from his attacks upon the game. Scores of times we used to see a male Sparrow-hawk fluttering against our windows endeavouring to reach our cage birds inside, or watching them from the porch; and in the summer, when some of the cages would be brought out of doors, we repeatedly had to mourn over the death of some of our pets that had been killed by the marauder striking them through the wires.
The Snipe that dropped into the marshy meadow below our house were regularly worked by Sparrow-hawks, and a stile in one of the covers was the favourite place to which they were carried and eaten, so that the ground beneath was littered with Snipe feathers. For some time we attributed this destruction to Merlins, until one day we came upon a male Sparrow-hawk with a freshly-killed Snipe in his feet, which we picked up as the bird flew off. Any bunch of Teal that appeared upon the river used to be persecuted by Sparrow-hawks, until we have known them all to be killed one after the other.
The Ring-doves in the plantations were also frequent victims, being knocked off their perches on the trees, then eaten on the ground below. The appearance of two or three Sparrow-hawks about the places where the young Pheasants were fed was also regarded as ominous of mischief, but they succeeded in carrying off very few, as there was plenty of cover for the Pheasants to hide themselves in from the destroyer. Needless to say that we waged war against the Sparrow-hawks, taking their nests and shooting all we could, but we never seemed to make any impression upon their numbers. The young Hawks, while they are still in the nest, keep up a wailing cry, which generally betrays its position, although it might otherwise have remained undetected in the thick upper branches of some old spruce.