Shikra is the name given to a small bird of prey that belongs to the Accipitridae family. There are several sub-species and it is often referred to as the little banded goshawk, the Indian sparrowhawk, or the little banded sparrowhawk.
Typically, this small raptor is between 26 and 30cm long. Its wings are short and rounded whilst its tail is long and narrow. There are noticeable differences in the appearance of adults and juvenile Shikra. They have a wingspan of 55 to 61cm and weigh between 125 to 130 grams.
Adult Shikra have a pale grey/white underside with a rufous finely barred upper section and white legs. Juvenile Shikra, on the other hand, have dark markings on their upper section and pale brown underparts with barred wings, dark bands on their tail, and dull yellow eyes.
Male Vs Female
Male and female Shikra do not look exactly the same. Male Shikra tend to have a rather ashy blue/grey body with a barred under section and orange-red toned eyes. The females are larger and have a brown-grey colored under section.
Their eye color can range from a deep yellow shade to a deep orange shade, however, the females are most commonly known for having a yellow iris.
Are They Aggressive?
As a species, the Shikra is known to be an aggressive hunter. It will usually position itself on a perch before navigating its way through the trees and locating its prey either on the trunks or on the ground.
Its forceful movements often mean that it is greeted with success when targeting its prey.
Although this bird may be small, they will likely take on other birds that are larger than them. Shikra can show signs of aggression in cities on occasions where they feel as though their nest is being threatened by other birds or creatures.
What Adaptations Do They Have?
The Shikra is known for its ability to adapt to different environments. Its short wings and long tail allows for fast maneuvering hence why this species is known to be skilled flyers.
Moreover, these birds are also known for their excellent vision hence why they are a popular choice for falconry.
In South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Shikra is a resident breeder. Typically, this bird will lay between 3 and 7 eggs. These eggs are then incubated for 18 to 21 days.
Once the incubation period has concluded, the chicks will begin to hatch from the eggs. If for whatever reason an egg is removed, another will be laid to replace it.
As a mating ritual, shikra will engage in a unique type of flight.
Their Calls/ Sounds
This species is known to be quite noisy. A shikra has a sharp two-toned call that is copied by drongos. This call will generally be heard when the bird is attempting to attract a partner. It is also used during breeding.
Shikras also use a range of sounds to communicate with other members of the species. The sound that this bird makes during flight is shorter than the sound that this bird makes when it is not moving.
What Do They Eat? (Diet)
As mentioned, Shikra are very skilled hunters. Essentially, this bird surprises its prey by flying over and catching it when it is unaware. It hunts in woodlands, the savannah, and suburban gardens, and areas.
A Shikra’s diet consists of smaller creatures such as frogs, fledglings, lizards, small birds, dragonflies, and some mammals.
Where Do They Live? (Habitat)
Shikra are usually found living in forests, farms, urban areas, and occasionally savannas and woodlands. This bird prefers areas where there are plenty of large trees and it generally avoids dense deserts and jungles.
In terms of geographical location, they are found in the continents of Asia and Africa but are also popular in the subcontinents of India.
What Are Their Nesting Habits?
When it comes to nesting, female Shikras in particular tend to be very selective. Both the male and female work together to create the nest and it is usually built in trees and made from a combination of twigs and sticks.
Much like crows, Shikra builds a loose and rather messy nest rather than one that is neat. They use leaves to create a barrier against disturbance from other birds and creatures.
The nesting period occurs between April and June and they build a new nest each year. The male and female play an active role in parenting their young.
How Long Do They Live? (Lifespan)
The average lifespan of a Shikra is between two and seven and a half years and this can differ depending on the subspecies.
What Predators Do They Have?
As a species, the Shikra itself is a powerful predator. They are not thought to face a threat from many other creatures that could be classed as a potential predator.
Their impressive flying abilities and eyesight, which is believed to be at least 8 times better than that of a human, means that they are considered to be a possible threat to large and small creatures.
What Are Their Feathers Like?
A Shikra has faint markings on its lateral tail feathers with a dark terminal band. On its underside feathers, the markings are much stronger and more prominent.
What Does Their Poop Look Like?
Information concerning the appearance of a Shikra’s poop is quite limited. However, raptors in general pass mutes which consist of three different parts. The fecal, the urate, and the urine.
The fecal refers to a colored mass that should be firm but not hard. A fresh fecal is going to have a consistency that is quite similar to that of toothpaste. If the feces does not retain its shape it is a sign that the raptor has diarrhea.
Although this is not specific to a Shikra, it gives you a general idea of what the poop of raptors in general looks like.
Do They Migrate?
Some subspecies of Shikra that are typically found in the North migrate towards the South as winter approaches. Others head towards the North in preparation for the breeding season.
Species of Shikra that are found in India tend to be sedentary, meaning that they are rather inactive and do not migrate.
According to the IUCN, currently, the conservation status of Shikra is labeled least concern as population numbers are at a steady figure. There are thought to be between 500,000 to 999,999 Shikra belonging to this species.
As such, it is not a threatened species. People present the most threat to this species as human activity is leading to changes in their habitat due to a loss of trees.
The word Shikra translates to Small Indian Hawk.
This species has a crooked beak and sharp talons. Talons refer to the hooked claws that are found on birds of prey.
The plumage of an adult Shikra is completely different from that of a juvenile Shikra.
Drongos mimic the sound that Shikra birds make to alarm other birds of their present. Ultimately, this helps them when it comes to hunting.
Known for their courageous personalities, Shikra will often challenge other bird species that are significantly larger than them.
During flight, Shikras tend to beat their wings quite rapidly whilst gliding through the air rather slowly. They use their tails to maneuver through the air as they fly.
In India Shikra are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act which means that it is not legal to keep them as pets.
Shikra is commonly used in falconry because they are skilled hunters. Falconry refers to the concept of using wild species and birds of prey to control pest species. Although they were once commonly used in India for falconry purposes, this is no longer the case as it is not legal there now.
The Shikra is a mascot for the Republic of Singapore Airforce 149 squadron which pilots the F5S/T Tiger fighter jets.
Smaller animals are usually alarmed by the flight of the Shikra species.
During the mating/ nesting seasons, once the eggs are laid, the female is responsible for incubating the eggs whilst the male takes on the task of guarding the nest and warning off any predators.
There you have it, the ultimate guide to the Shikra species. As you can see, the Shikra is a powerful bird that is known for its great hunting capabilities.
Although they are not thought to be overly aggressive, they will show signs of aggression if they feel as though their nest is being threatened by another creature. They adopt forceful movements when targeting their prey.
There are distinct differences in the appearance of male and female Shikra as well as juveniles and adults. They are rather particular when it comes to breeding and establishing an area that is suitable for their nest.
Both of the parents play an active role in parenting their young as they work together to assemble a suitable nest.