Life

The Amazing Abilities of Sparrowhawks: Camouflage, Fire-Setting, and Dominance Over Larger Prey

   In people’s minds, raptors are usually relatively large, but in the animal world, there is a small raptor – the sparrowhawk. Although they are petite, they are second to none in speed! Once the prey comes into view, they will rush towards it like an arrow from the string, killing it with one strike!
  The sparrowhawk is the king of small raptors. Although they are not big in size, they have a tall and upright posture and exude the aura of a king. What’s even more surprising is that although sparrowhawks are birds, they still possess some human intelligence. Not only can they hunt prey with their excellent speed, they can also disguise their attacks, and sometimes even “set fire” to force their prey to attack. Run out of the cave! They are well-deserved jungle killers, known as “little hunters” and “air stealth fighters”!
  The chickens on the farm disappeared mysteriously due to misfortune.
   Terry Stevenson was born in a small village in Gloucester, England. He has been particularly fond of small animals since he was a child, and has always raised kittens and puppies at home. After graduating from college, he returned to his hometown and worked on his father’s farm.
   One day in May 2019, Terry found a bird with an injured leg on his way to the farm. It was curled up on the roadside, shivering. It opened its mouth and breathed with difficulty. There was a sad and desperate light in its eyes. It looked so weak.
   Terry had never seen this kind of bird before. The bird looked a bit like an owl, but it was less than thirty centimeters long and weighed just over a pound. Terry stopped and wanted to help it. Unexpectedly, a car passed by with its horn honking. It was frightened and ran into the middle of the road in a panic. It was very dangerous. Terry broke out in a cold sweat and immediately stepped over to the bird’s side, guiding the vehicles behind him to avoid it while rescuing it.
   After returning home, Terry took a closer look at the bird. Its feathers were gray-brown, its lower body was covered with reddish-brown and brown markings, its wings were round and wide, and its tail was long. There is a layer of gold around its eyeballs, which is particularly beautiful. Terry felt very distressed when he saw the weak and pitiful dog, and was determined to help it recover from its injuries.
   He kept the bird in his yard and built him a comfortable nest. Under Terry’s care, the bird’s injuries gradually improved. It often squats on the branches, with its tail drooping, its head held high, and its chest held high. The brown-red markings are tightly packed on its chest, giving it a very linear look.
   After the injury healed, it began to fly, but it seemed to have feelings for Terry and never flew away. It first flaps its wings rapidly to fly, and then stops flapping its wings to glide. It alternates between flying and gliding, looking both powerful and dexterous.
   Every time, it spins a few circles in the air and then flies back home. Terry, who loves animals, was naturally very happy to see the bird so attached to him. Although the bird’s injury had healed, he took care of it even more carefully!
   One day, Terry found that one of the chickens in his yard was missing. At first, he didn’t care. However, another chicken was missing the next day, and Terry was a little puzzled. He carefully checked the surrounding protection and found no flaws.
   What’s even more strange is that when Henry, the neighbor next door, was chatting with him, he accidentally mentioned that two chickens in the yard had somehow disappeared. Terry immediately sensed something was wrong. He said to Henry: “Hurry up and take a look at your home camera!”
   However, when Terry and Henry checked the camera surveillance together, they were shocked. The chickens were not stolen by people, but by a bird. gone! In the video, a chicken is leisurely basking in the sun in Henry’s yard. Suddenly, a bird flew over and swooped down. The chicken, which was still alive just a moment ago, was pushed to the ground by the bird. It pressed one paw on the chicken’s chest and the other paw. Press one of its legs.
   The chicken clucked loudly at the top of its lungs while flapping its wings desperately. But the bird held on tightly with its paws, and the chicken couldn’t break free. At the same time, the bird used its sharp beak to start plucking the feathers off the chicken’s breast one by one. The chicken crowed even more miserably, gradually losing the ability to resist, and its wings drooped down, struggling only slightly. The bird floated away with the joy of victory, carrying the bare chicken in its mouth.
   The moment it left, its eyes were looking at the camera, and the gold rim around its eyeballs was shining brightly. Terry was stunned for a moment. Isn’t this the injured bird he rescued?
   But how could it be so weak and pitiful that it suddenly became so ferocious? Terry couldn’t wait to come to the bird’s nest and found that the bird was resting peacefully in the nest, as if nothing had happened.
   Terry was a little confused. He didn’t believe that the bird would eat the chicken. But when he checked next to the bird’s nest, he was surprised to find some gnawed chicken “remains”, and these chicken bones had been eaten clean. Terry couldn’t help but shudder. Could it be that he was confused by the appearance of the bird and “lure the wolf into the house”?
   He did not dare to stop any longer and immediately sent the bird to a wildlife rescue station. After identification, the staff found that the bird was really not an ordinary bird, but a sparrowhawk, a national second-level protected animal.
  Sparrowhawks are the smallest raptors. They are not large in size, but they have sharp claws that raptors usually have. Once deployed, they can deal with small mammals on land or the snakes, the old enemies of the raptor family. It’s all at your fingertips! In addition, some galliform birds or pigeon-like birds are also the targets of their hunting. Only then did Terry figure out the true identity of this bird!
  Kingly demeanor, speed and wisdom coexist.
   It turns out that the sparrowhawk, like other hawks, also has a domineering side.
   They like to hide among the branches of trees, peeping and observing small animals on the ground, such as birds, mice, snakes and hares, waiting for opportunities to sneak attacks and ambush.
   Among birds of prey in the genus Accipitre, the sparrowhawk has the highest ratio of tail feather length to body length. Its tail feathers are shaped like a ship’s rudder, giving them the ability to turn quickly in the forest. For these “jungle assassins”, traveling through a small space among lush foliage is as easy as flying in the vast sky.
   Coupled with the sparrowhawk’s petite and dexterous stature, they can more skillfully fly between the trees. Their flight speed is very fast, reaching hundreds of kilometers per hour, often catching those being attacked by surprise.
   Generally, crows are the largest birds among passerine birds, but they are extremely aggressive, fierce, warlike, and have very powerful big beaks. Many small birds do not dare to mess with them, but once they encounter them When you get to Sparrowhawk, you’re just out of luck.
   According to some information, a crow was squatting on a poplar branch, looking at the river, waiting for a fish to appear. Unfortunately, it did not wait for the fish, but instead waited for the sparrowhawk.
   A sparrowhawk flew from a pine forest, like lightning, directly towards the crow. The two birds flew from the tree to the bottom of the tree, and then from the bottom of the tree to the river, causing water to splash everywhere. As the water splashed everywhere, the two birds flew out of the water again and started fighting on the beach. You pecked me and I bit you, going back and forth without giving in to each other.
   During the fight, the crow, knowing that he was no match, tried to escape several times, but was dragged down by the sparrowhawk. But the crow was not a subdued master. Although it was pinned down on the beach, it kept pecking at the sparrowhawk with its big beak. The sparrowhawk had to dodge left and right, and was unable to eat for a while.
   Finally, while avoiding the crow’s bite, the sparrowhawk found a gap and pecked the crow fiercely. Under the fierce attack of the sparrowhawk, the crow was injured and had to give up resistance, flapping its wings and screaming feebly. At this time, the sparrowhawk became proud and began to pluck its feathers out of habit. The crow twitched and allowed the sparrowhawk to peck at its chest. Finally, the crow stopped screaming and collapsed on the beach.
   The extraordinary speed of sparrowhawks is their unique skill! When facing many prey, they must be fast and agile, and attack in as little as 4 seconds. Moreover, they have explosive acceleration. When they extend their long legs, their short, round wings powerfully roll up the air, driving their light body forward, they can reach attack speed within 2 seconds.
   Interestingly, the 1930s coincided with the so-called “golden age” in aviation history. The “Aerial” force affiliated to the U.S. Navy is responsible for aerial reconnaissance and early warning on the east and west coasts of the United States. The F9C fighter jet they use is also called “Sparrowhawk”! The sparrowhawk is the most powerful of the hawks and raptors, which coincides with the agile and petite appearance of the F9C!
   Although everyone knows the speed of sparrowhawks, when they appear on the scene, all birds are frightened, and their formation is overwhelming. It is not an exaggeration to call them “little hunters”. They also have a camouflage skill, which allows them to hunt their opponents silently and hit with one blow!
   It turns out that from the overall color point of view, the upper body of the sparrowhawk is darker and the lower body is lighter. When their prey looks up, the light-colored lower body can blend with the sky background, which helps the sparrowhawk hunt small birds. And when the sparrowhawk’s natural enemies look down on them from the air, the dark upper body blends well with the ground, helping the sparrowhawk avoid its natural enemies. Moreover, the patterns on the sparrowhawk’s abdomen are particularly similar to those of the giant cuckoo, which they often use to confuse their prey.
   Usually, when danger comes, sparrows are more alert than people. When the chirping of sparrows in the trees suddenly becomes rapid and chaotic, it is likely to indicate the arrival of the sparrowhawk. Even so, sparrows still cannot escape the hunting of sparrowhawks, because sparrowhawks are very good at camouflage.
   Scientists have observed that when a sparrowhawk sees a group of sparrows chattering and having fun under a wall from a distance, it will not attack directly because the distance is too far. It will fly slowly along the wall, without flying fast or even flapping its wings, just gliding, never going too far beyond the wall, letting its light-colored lower body blend with the sky, so that the sparrows will not notice it at all.
   Little did the sparrows know that the sparrowhawks from far and near were carrying out a premeditated hunting operation. The sparrowhawk approached step by step. It had already determined the sparrow’s position from other angles, and then camouflaged and sneaked all the way. It wanted to attack at the most appropriate place and catch the opponent by surprise.
   After a while, the sparrowhawk reached the sparrow’s position. It suddenly climbed vertically, like an “air stealth fighter”, and climbed over the wall. What followed was the scream of the sparrows, but it was too late, and the sparrows who woke up from a dream could only become a delicacy for the sparrowhawks.
   A successful sparrowhawk hunt usually goes through three stages: chasing, capturing, and killing and eating. However, in the final stage, the prey will not die immediately, but will be “scratched alive” by the sparrowhawk – it will be held down under its feet and its feathers will be plucked bit by bit until it is completely plucked, and then the skin and flesh will be ripped out and eaten.
   In fact, whether it is a ground attack or an aerial confrontation, the sparrowhawk has the best plan of action, which is no worse than those larger raptors. And in terms of environmental adaptability, the sparrowhawk may be even better.
  If the speed of the sparrowhawk is innate, then the ability to disguise is a sign of high intelligence, and “deliberately setting fire” is a challenge to human wisdom.
  Thrilling tactics, setting fire to hunt for one pot
   . In 2019, Australian fires burned for several months, almost sweeping through the forests of the Australian continent. The fires directly killed 33 people and destroyed thousands of houses and buildings, ranging from frogs to frogs. Koalas and at least billions of animals perished in the flames. Who started such a big fire?
   Based on past experience, scientists believe that there may be three factors.
   First, it is due to meteorological conditions. Under high temperature and drought conditions, the thickness of branches, fallen leaves and humus accumulated in the forest is relatively large. Under strong sunlight, the accumulated temperature effect is obvious and spontaneous combustion is prone to occur. Natural climate factors are also the main reason for forest fires.
  Second, it is man-made fire. For example, when people smoke or have picnics in the wild, they use open flames to cause the burning of surrounding flammable materials, thus affecting the forest.
   Third, the birds “set fire”! In the process of evolution, they have different feelings towards fire from other wild animals. Not only are they not afraid, but they can also “use fire”. They will look for burning branches or weeds, grab them with their claws and throw them on the dry grassland to ignite the dry grass and force rodents, lizards, insects, etc. to leave the grass, making it easier to catch and eat.
   In March 2021, another forest fire broke out in eastern Australia. Moreover, the wildfires continued. In order to catch the real culprit, Australian security agencies and scientists intervened in the investigation as soon as the fire broke out. However, after collecting evidence from many parties and repeatedly investigating the origin of the fire, the “arsonist” was finally pinned on Sparrowhawk. So, how can a little sparrowhawk have such great abilities?
   It turns out that scientists have encountered predatory birds and hawks many times during their investigations. They always consciously help expand the fire when a forest fire breaks out. They will pick up burning branches with their talons or beaks and then calmly drop the branches to areas where the fire is not yet burning, allowing the fire to spread.
   So why do sparrowhawks behave this strangely? After research, scientists found that the reason why sparrowhawks light fires is to force rodents to leave their nests, so that their favorite locusts, frogs, mice and lizards have to leave the grass, leaving their prey with nowhere to escape.
   Some zoologists have personally witnessed dozens of arson cases of raptors through collection. Sparrowhawks are very familiar with this method of catching prey. In order to catch prey better and easier, they will deliberately hold burning branches in their mouths and place them near prey. It is easy to hide in the grass and cause a fire.
   It has to be said that these sparrowhawks are even smarter than humans in order to get their prey. In the eyes of many people, the sparrowhawk does not have a powerful body and can just bully small birds such as sparrows, so there is no need to be aggressive. However, people always underestimate the sparrowhawk’s courage and intelligence, and it actually competes with hares.
   In June 2021, scientists observed through monitoring that a larger sparrowhawk squatted on a branch, holding its head high, looking tall, majestic and majestic. When it saw a fat hare, it flapped its wings and shot at the hare.
   The hare found the sparrowhawk coming toward him and ran away. Even though the hare is several times larger than the sparrowhawk, the hare is timid by nature, not good at fighting, and has no capital to fight. Therefore, when the hare faces the sparrowhawk, the only way to escape is to run.
   However, four legs cannot outrun two wings. Soon, the sparrow hawk pounced on the hare. But the hare was so big that the sparrowhawk couldn’t push it down to the ground.
   Therefore, the sparrowhawk wanted to take out its trump card and peck out the hare’s eyes to make it lose its sense of direction first. But this time, the sparrowhawk met a cunning hare. It seemed to see through the sparrowhawk’s intentions and immediately got into the bushes. Unexpectedly, the branches of the shrubs will not be an obstacle to the sparrowhawk. Because of its fast speed and small size, it can shuttle through the gaps in those branches very freely. The hare ran for his life like crazy, and finally he got into his own rabbit hole.
   How can a rabbit run away when it reaches its mouth? The sparrowhawk finally stopped on the branch. It looked at the rabbit hole with eyes wide open. The yellow gold rim in its eyes made it full of stubbornness and domineering! Sparrowhawk was silent for a while. Soon, it flew away lightly!
   Perhaps the hare thought he had escaped a disaster! However, it never expected it. Half an hour later, the sparrowhawk took two other female sparrowhawks with them. They held a flaming branch they found somewhere in their mouths and flew straight towards the rabbit hole. They fluttered their wings and stopped at the entrance of the rabbit hole, then threw the twigs with tinder inside. One of the female sparrowhawks actually “kicked” the branch inward with her talons!
   After a while, thick gray smoke came out of the rabbit hole. One, two, or three rabbits ran out of the hole desperately, but what awaited them was a fierce peck from the sparrowhawks! Because of this ability to “set fire”, the sparrowhawk never lacks food. Sparrowhawks are very powerful, and their only rival is the goshawk, which is also a bird of prey.
   Professor James from the United States is a famous biologist. He is mainly engaged in the research of forest raptors. In this field, he has more than 30 years of research and protection work and has rich experience.
   One day, James accidentally discovered a pile of scattered feathers in a forest clearing. After observing, he discovered that these blood-stained feathers came from sparrowhawks. Usually, sparrowhawks pluck the feathers of other birds. In the forest, sparrowhawks are already among the top predators. Who can kill them?
   After careful research, James found that the sparrowhawk encountered a more ferocious raptor, and this raptor was the goshawk, a medium-sized raptor that dominated the forest. The goshawk attacks and kills the sparrowhawk from behind, then carries it to its nest or somewhere it deems safe to feast on, leaving only a clump of feathers.
   The goshawk is the largest raptor in the forest hawk genus. Although its wings are short, they are very broad and have long tail feathers. It is this unique structure that helps it survive better in the jungle. The sparrowhawk is smaller than the goshawk, and its body is not as strong as the goshawk. Both feed on birds. The sparrowhawk often preys on small birds, while the goshawk mainly preys on larger birds.
   Because the ecological niches of the two are similar, they will form a competitive relationship and often start wars over territory.
   In most cases, goshawks and sparrowhawks breed in the same area. In order for their offspring to live a better life and obtain more food sources, potential competitors must be eliminated.
  In order to protect its own territory, Sparrowhawk will not show weakness even if it knows that it is outnumbered, even if it costs its life.
   In nature, cruel competition like this happens all the time. Although the law of the jungle is the law of survival in the animal kingdom, the eagle strikes the sky, the fish flies shallow, and the sparrow eagle soaring in the sky always symbolizes the fight against fate, the indomitable fighter. Synonymous with freedom and pride.
   In fact, from the moment of birth, the sparrowhawk is very close to death. Although sparrowhawk chicks are highly adaptable, their survival rate in the first year of life is only 34%, and their mortality rate is particularly high. However, they have never been afraid. After three weeks, they will leave their parents and explore the world independently, living a stubborn and domineering life.
   Sparrowhawks have a kind of vitality in their bodies. They may be persistent and domineering, making other birds surrender; or they may be elegant and agile, swimming in the blue sky. They are the well-deserved kings of small raptors.

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