As I was preparing for my upcoming Lightroom workshop I found these photos of Juvenile Shikra from 2010. At that time I was using Canon EOS 5D mark II and this photo is shot from the close quarters using Canon EF 300mm f/4.0 L IS USM. This Shikra was sitting in a Jack fruit tree behind our house. I was hardly few feet away from it. It was least concerned about me or my white lens as it has seen me around so many times.
This photograph was originally shot as badly under exposed photo. I was shooting at around 6PM in a fading evening light. I tried post process it in 2010 using older version of Lightroom at that time and found after correcting the picture the noise it produced in the background and on the bird itself was too much. So I thought not to publish it and relegated it to the archive on my hard disk. Now with new version of Lightroom and the new process 2012 allowed me to process this file far better. I also could do selective noise reduction using adjustment brush thus Lightroom salvaged this nearly unusable photo.
The Shikra (Accipiter badius) is a small bird of prey in the family Accipitridae found widely distributed in Asia and Africa where it is also called the Little Banded Goshawk. The Shikra is very similar in appearance to other sparrowhawk species including the Besra and Eurasian Sparrowhawk. I thank Ramit Singal for helping me identify as I had confused it to Besra (Accipiter varigatus) which looks similar. Besra has a thicker barring on the tail than this. Shikra has a sharp two note call and a typical flap and glide flight. Their calls are imitated by drongos and the Common Hawk-Cuckoo resembles it in plumage.
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. 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 Shikra is found in a range of habitats including forests, farmland and urban areas. 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. They feed on rodents, squirrels, small birds, small reptiles (mainly lizards but sometimes small snakes) and insects. 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 Shikra was a favorite among falconers in India and Pakistan due to the ease with it could be trained and was frequently used to procure food for the more prized falcons. The word shikra or shikara means hunter in the Hindi.