Bird of the Day: Sparrowhawk

My most engaging experiences with sparrowhawks have been the handful of occasions when I have been driving along a lane or hedgerow, and a ‘sprawk’ has flown alongside or in front of me. They fly at hedge-height and hug the contours of the landscape as they fly, hoping to ambush an unsuspecting passerine so are often seen down rural roads. They commonly visit gardens – actually bird tables! – although I’ve only ever seen them here at the farm when I’m out on walks.

As I mentioned in my Peregrine BotD post, it’s difficult to paint a stationary raptor as they seem to be on pause, saving their energy for the swoop and kill, and it’s difficult to convey their skill and character as they all tend to sit in a similar way, and the coloration is remarkably uniform: greys and browns, with varying deployment of stripes. Hawks and falcons tend to have banding on the front with blocks of colour on the wings and nape, and if I paint them looking back over their shoulder, I can dispense with painting stripes which, unlike dots, don’t look right if they’re evenly placed. I can get in a flash of the marvellous trousers though, which is fun.

Sparrowhawks have very delicate spindly legs for reaching out with lightning speed to hook a songbird or pigeon. The subtle differences in bird of prey morphology is fascinating, and another reason why I love to paint them: I really get to study lots of angles and positions and how the bird uses its body, beak and talons to live effectively in its niche.

If you would like to buy this painting, it is here in my Etsy Shop.

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