These stealthy hunters usually keep a low profile, sticking close to cover as they stalk their feathered prey. But in early spring sparrowhawks engage in aerial acrobatics above newly selected nesting territories. To assert their claim to the area, birds soar and wheel overhead on outstretched wings, then swoop and climb again before ending the show with a spectacularly steep dive. These rollercoaster displays are performed by both sexes, but being 25 per cent larger than the males, females are more visible, and are often mistaken by eager birders for goshawks.
TOP TIP Spot displaying raptors by scanning the skies above woodland on still, sunny afternoons.