Commonly known as a little banded goshawk, a shikra is a small, predatory bird native to Africa and Asia. The scientific name of this bird is Accipiter badius and it is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a species of least concern. This bird has a very large geographic range and a wide selection of different habitats. Differences between these birds across the range have lead to six subspecies being recognized.
This species is a very common site across most of Asia and is also fairly widespread across much of Africa. According to the IUCN, the population of the shikra is estimated to be in excess of approximately one million. The large numbers, combined with the vast geographic range, wide and varied diet, and habitat means that this species is in the least concern category. This means it is not considered to be at serious risk of extinction.
The natural habitat of the shikra includes grassland, woodland, and agricultural land as well as savannas, arid and semi-arid regions, and tropical and subtropical areas. These birds can also be found in areas of human habitation, even living and hunting in hustling towns. The shikra builds new nest every year, high up in trees, although it is not uncommon to see this bird nesting on tall buildings in urban areas.
The female takes responsibility for incubating eggs, while the male takes charge of protecting the nest and hunting; the male brings food back to the female, who cannot leave the nest during incubation. Up to seven eggs are laid, with a day between each. Eggs take about one month to hatch; the female then takes sole charge of hunting, feeding, and rearing the young.
A comparatively small raptor, the shikra is diurnal, i.e., hunting only during daylight. The diet of this bird is varied because of its large range. Prey includes small reptiles, birds, amphibians, invertebrates, and mammals. It will also eat the juveniles of larger species of birds and mammals. Reaching only 12 inches (30 centimeters) in length, the shikra is rarely used in serious falconry because it catches only, very small prey. This species is occasionally used in falconry, however, as a bird for beginners or novices.
In turn, the shikra is hunted by larger raptors such as martial eagles and sparrow hawks. If caught by surprise, this bird can also fall prey to domestic cats and dogs. In natural surroundings, the shikra is also a food source for many large, carnivorous land mammals.
There are six recognize subspecies. Most of the differences between the birds involve small, localized adaptations. Variations include plumage color and food preferences. Incubation and rearing the young has become a shared male and female task among some of the subspecies.