Shikra (Accipiter badius)

French: Epervier shikra
GenusAccipiter (1)
SizeLength: 30 cm (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

The shikra is considered to be the commonest small hawk of dry woodland and savanna in Africa and India (2). The adult male shikra is smaller than the female with a striking red eye, pale grey plumage above and barred chestnut feathers below. In contrast, the adult female is darker and browner, with a deep-orange eye. The immature can be identified by the black stripe on the throat, the brown, drop-like streaking on the breast, the barring on the flanks, and the yellow-brown eyes (2) (4). A noisy species, the shikra typically produces a loud, piercing “kitoukitou” call (4). There are six subspecies of shikra, which can be distinguished by size, the extent of brown colouration in the upperparts and rufous in the underparts, and by geographical location (2).

The shikra has a large range, extending throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, India, and central and south-east Asia, as far as Thailand and Vietnam. This species is also found in the Arabian Peninsula, with native populations occupying Saudi Arabia and introduced populations occurring in the United Arab Emirates. The five subspecies of shikra inhabit separate parts of this range: Accipiter badius cenchroides is found in Azerbaijan, east to Kazakhstan, and Iran, east to north-west India; Accipiter badius dussumieri occupies central India and Bangladesh; Accipiter badius badius occurs in south-west India and Sri Lanka; Accipiter badius poliopsis is found in north-east India, east to southern China, and south to Thailand and Vietnam; Accipiter badius sphenurus inhabits Senegambia, east to south-west Arabia, and south to northern Democratic Republic of Congo and northern Tanzania; and Accipiter badius polyzonoides is found in southern Democratic Republic of Congo and southern Tanzania, south to northern South Africa (2).

The shikra inhabits a variety of wooded habitats, including deciduous closed-canopy woodland, savanna, small plantations of exotic trees, and urban parks and gardens (2) (4). This species can also be found in areas of arid steppe grassland (2).

An aggressive hunter, the shikra mainly hunts from a perch, making a short dash through the branches to snatch prey from tree trunks, foliage or the ground (2) (4). This forceful, surprise attack is usually sufficient to catch the lizards and small birds on which the shikra feeds, although on rare occasions it may engage in aerial pursuits. Other prey taken by this species include nestlings, eggs, bats, rodents, frogs and insects (2).

The shikra’s breeding season varies significantly according to location, but most commonly occurs at the end of the dry season. Populations breed between March and August in Sri Lanka; between January and June in India; January and May in west and north-east Africa, probably throughout the year in East Africa, between August and January in southern Africa, and in late May in Azerbaijan (2). Prior to nesting, the shikra is highly vocal and engages in soaring displays (2) (4). Two to four eggs are laid in a small stick nest lined with bark flakes, which is placed in the outer fork of a horizontal tree branch. Incubation lasts for around 30 to 35 days according to location, with fledging occurring around 32 days later (2).

At the end of the breeding season, shikra populations located at the northern edge of its global range make a southward migration, some heading south-west to Arabia, but most travelling to Pakistan, India and south-east Asia. In other parts of its range, this species is resident throughout the year, although some seasonal movements occur in Africa (2).

With a very large global population, estimated at one million birds in 2009, and no major threats at present, there is little concern for the shikra’s survival. (2) (5). Indeed, this species is believed to be potentially capable of tolerating total deforestation within its habitat, and readily adapts to cultivated or urban areas (6).

There are no known conservation measures in place for the shikra, it is common and widespread (1) (2).

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  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2014)