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The shikra is a small raptor (26–30 cm long) and 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 shikra is found in a range of habitats including forests, farmland and urban areas.