The shikra also called the little banded goshawk is a small raptor (26?30 cm long) and like most other Accipiter hawks, this species has short rounded wings and a narrow and somewhat long tail. Adults are whitish on the underside with fine rufous bars while the upperparts are grey. The lower belly is less barred and the thighs are whitish. Males have a red iris while the females have a less red (yellowish orange) iris and brownish upperparts apart from heavier barring on the underparts. The females are slightly larger. The mesial stripe on the throat is dark but narrow. In flight the male seen from below shows a light wing lining (underwing coverts) and has blackish wing tips. When seen from above the tail bands are faintly marked on the lateral tail feathers and not as strongly marked as in the Eurasian sparrowhawk. The central tail feathers are unbanded and only have a dark terminal band. Juveniles have dark streaks and spots on the upper breast and the wing is narrowly barred while the tail has dark but narrow bands. A post juvenile transitional plumage is found with very strong barring on the contour feathers of the underside.with. They are usually seen singly or in pairs. The flight is typical with flaps and glides. During the breeding season pairs will soar on thermals and stoop at each other. Their flight usually draws alarms among smaller birds and squirrels.
Habitat and Distribution
The shikra is found in a range of habitats including forests, farmland and urban areas.
They feed on rodents, squirrels, small birds, small reptiles (mainly lizards but sometimes small snakes) and insects. Small birds usually dive through foliage to avoid a shikra and a Small Blue Kingfisher has been observed diving into water to escape. Babblers have been observed to rally together to drive away a shikra. They will descend to the ground to feast on emerging winged termites, hunt at dusk for small bats (such as Cynopterus sphinx) and in rare instances they may even resort to feed on carrion.
The breeding season in India is in summer from March to June. The nest is a platform similar to that of crows lined with grass. Both sexes help build the nest, twigs being carried in their feet. Like crows, they may also make use of metal wires. The usual clutch is 3 to 4 eggs (when eggs are removed they lay replacements and one observer noted that they could lay as many as 7 in a season) which are pale bluish grey stippled on the broad end in black. The incubation period is 18 to 21 days.
Calls and Songs
The call is pee-wee, the first note being higher and the second being longer. In flight the calls are shorter and sharper kik-ki ... kik-ki. The Chinese sparrowhawk is somewhat similar in appearance but has swollen bright orange ceres and yellow legs with the wing tips entirely black.