Dr Newton is now a senior ornithologist with the Natural Environment Research Council and the book draws on his wide knowledge of the Sparrowhawk, as well as that of other workers in Britain and abroad, to give a detailed account of all aspects of its lifestyle, population levels and trends and the impact of man and environment on the species in recent times. The book also has the benefit of Dr Newton's particular interest in population regulation and breeding performance, and in the remarkable contrast in size between the Sparrowhawk sexes (males being half the weight of females), which means that they diverge, almost as separate species, in habitat preference, diet and in response to circumstance. The narrative is fully supported by diagrams, tables and photographs, and is embellished by Keith Brockie's evocative and accomplished drawings.
As a boy in a Derbyshire village, Ian Newton discovered his first Sparrowhawk nest and so began a continuing fascination with this relatively common but often elusive bird of prey. Many years later as a scientist with the Nature Conservancy Council he embarked on a 14-year study of the species in two areas of SW Scotland, attempting each year to trap and ring all Sparrowhawks present and to find all of their nests. As a result many individuals were closely studied throughout their lives.