Shikra

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Image:Shikra.jpg

Common Name: Shikra
Scientific Name: Accipiter badius

Size: 10.2-11.8 inches (26-30 cm); Wingspan: 21.5-24 inches (55-61cm)

Habitat: Africa and Asia; breeds from the southern part of Russia, east to South China, south as far as Sri Lanka, and in Africa south of the Sahara from Gambia and Ethiopia to the Cape Province.

Its preferred habitat is savannahs or cultivated areas. It is not found in dense forest or in very dry country. In South Central Asia, India, Burma and parts of South China, it frequents natural savannahs, areas of cultivation and it is also quite common in areas of housing. In India two pairs may be found breeding within 30 acres, and in savannahs of Africa they may be found at intervals of a mile or less. They are usually seen singly or in pairs. The flight is typical with flaps and glides.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 4,000,000 adult individuals.

Diet: Rodents (such as the Indian desert jird, Meriones hurrianae), squirrels, small birds, small bats, small reptiles (mainly lizards but sometimes small snakes) and large insects.

Nesting: The adult male is clear grey above, with just a hint of rufous forming a half-collar. Primary flight feathers are dark grey, tipped with black, with white bases on the inner webs, and barred with dark brown or black. Below, the chin and throat are white, with a narrow black streak at the center. The sides of face and neck are greyish red; the breast and belly are white, finely barred with chestnut. The under-tail thighs are white. The tail is grey, with five dark bars and a dark tip. Underneath, the wings are rufous to buff. The inner lining of the wing quills is grey, shading to pinkish buff, darker towards the tip. The eyes vary from golden to red, the cere from yellow to orange, and the legs yellow. Females are larger and more slatey above. They are also more clearly barred below than males. Immatures are brownish grey above, with paler edges to the feathers. The tail is grey with four or five clear dark bars, the last of which is quite broad. Below, it is white to buff with drop-shaped spots and streaks of reddish brown. The tail is barred grey and dark brown below. The underside of the wing is similar to the adult, but more rufous generally. The eyes are brown, the cere and feet yellow to greenish yellow.

The nuptial display is a fluttering flight above the treetops, accompanied by frequent calling, the male rising and falling in flight, sometimes joined by the female. Mating takes place on a perch, the male perching first and calling the female, who then alights beside him; the male then flies to a higher perch, where he strops his beak, before flying down to mount the female. It is a very noisy process, and helps to attract attention to the breeding site, but it ceases during nest-building and after eggs are laid.

The nest is a small structure of thin sticks, eight to twelve inches across and three to six inches deep. A new nest is built each year, although usually in the same general area. It is placed at between twenty and forty feet above ground, well out on a lateral branch. It is lined with green leaves. Only the female builds, while the male stays nearby. Building takes about ten days and is chiefly done during the morning.

From two to four eggs are laid on consecutive days. They are greenish white or pale bluish, normally unmarked, but in some races with a few pale brown or grey flecks and blotches; African eggs are more often marked than Asian. Laying dates vary geographically. The breeding season is in the late spring in the northern part of the range, and in the dry season elsewhere.

The female takes sole responsibility for incubation; she is called off the nest to feed by the male and tears up the prey very quickly. The incubation period is between 30 and 35 days. Both sexes bring food to the nest, but the female stays with the young in the early stages and collects most of the prey from the male, who does not normally feed the young. The fledging period is a little over 30 days.

Cool Facts: The word “shikra” means hunter in the Hindi language. It is also called the Little Banded Goshawk.

The shikra was a favorite among falconers in India and Pakistan due to the ease with which it could be trained and it was frequently used to procure food for the more prized falcons. They were noted for their pluck and ability to take much larger birds including partridges, crows and even young peafowl.

This species shows a good deal of regional variation, generally represented as distinct races:

  • Accipiter badius badius – Found in South India and Sri Lanka. This is the nominate race.
  • Accipiter badius dussumier – Found in India from Kashinir and Sikkim south to Central India. This race is larger, paler grey above and paler rufous barring below than Accipiter badius badius.
  • Accipiter badius cenchroides – Found in Central Asia. This race is paler than Accipiter badius badius or Accipiter badius dussumieri.
  • Accipiter badius poliopsis – Found in Assam, east to eastern China, south to Indo-China. Large, similar to Accipiter badius dussumieri, but with a greyer head.
  • Accipiter badius sphenurus – Found in Africa from Gambia to Ethiopia south to Zaire, Tanzania and Saudi Arabia. This race is smaller, darker and duller grey above, with darker wing quills, and more rufous below than the Asiatic races.
  • Accipiter badius polyzonoides – Found from South Tanzania south to the Cape Province. Again, a smaller bird, similar to Accipiter badius sphenurus, but with some white spots on wing coverts and mantle in many individuals


This 3D Model is found in Songbird ReMix Birds of Prey Volume II: Hawks of the Old World

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