Tiny Hawk

Tiny Hawk (Accipiter superciliosus): Gavilán enano; Däumlingsperber; Epervier nain

With only 2 reports so far this year – we’re already in September – I think we can call the Tiny Hawk a rare bird for our region. The fairly sparse eBird reports for the last 10 years have been in only a few locations, and in the Turrialba area at lower elevations exclusively. Larry and Steven found their bird at the Angostura Dam at a location that now, unfortunately, is beginning to attract rather too many people – not necessarily bird watchers.

Tiny Hawk at Angostura; photo by Larry Waddell

Yes, the Tiny Hawk really is tiny – the male is about the same size as Costa Rica’s national bird, the Clay-coloured Thrush, while the female is only slightly larger. In both Spanish and French the Tiny Hawk is literally the dwarf hawk or dwarf sparrowhawk, while the Germans call it the Tom Thumb sparrowhawk. And just like the European Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) its favourite prey is small birds, often hummingbirds. It is found in humid forest environments, usually below 1000 m. John and Milena also attempted some photographs….

Tiny Hawk, Angostura Dam; photo by John Beer

….. but this individual – a female or perhaps an immature brown morph – was a little skittish and a close approach was difficult. The following image zooms in some of the key field marks, yellow cere, barred breast, and dark bars on a brown tail:

Tiny Hawk, Angostura Dam; photo by Larry Waddell

My only other knowledge of this species comes from a chance encounter in Limón. In April 2019 the Tiny Hawk below collided with a window at El Coco near Siquirres. Bad luck for the hawk but good luck for the photographer! The dark crown indicates perhaps a young male:

Tiny Hawk on the ground at El Coco de Siquirres; photo courtesy of Edwin Cyrus

Happily, the bird made a full recovery and soon flew off, but the incident permitted this excellent photograph, which gives us a great look at some details: barred tail, dark crown, white throat, yellow cere and feet. This may also be an immature bird. Immatures are said to come in two morphs, brown and rufous, but not much seems to be known about the breeding biology of this secretive species.

Come to Costa Rica if you love birds – you just never know what will turn up.

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