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Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Accipiter nisus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: Asian Sparrowhawk, European Sparrowhawk, Indian Sparrowhawk, Northern Sparrowhawk.

Accipiter nisus
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Distribution: Afrotropical/Indomalayan/Palearctic. Eurasia from Scandinavia to SIBERIA and KAMCHATKA south to northwestern Africa; MADEIRA, CANARY ISLANDS, CORSICA, and SARDINIA; winters south to northern Africa, Indian subcontinent, Indochina, southern CHINA, and Middle East. more....

Subspecies: 6 races. A. n. granti: MADEIRA and CANARY IS.; A. n. melaschistos: Himalayas and mountains of central Asia; A. n. nisosimilis: Russian Far East to Chukotka, KAMCHATKA, northeastern CHINA,, KOREA, and JAPAN; winters south to INDIA, SRI LANKA, Indochina, and eastern and southern CHINA; A. n. nisus: Europe and Asia Minor east to western SIBERIA and south to northern ISRAEL, TURKEY and Caucasia to IRAN; winters south to northeastern Africa and Middle East; A. n. punicus: Northwestern Africa, from MOROCCO to TUNISIA; A. n. wolterstorffi: CORSICA and SARDINIA. more....

Taxonomy: Possibly conspecific with the African form, A. rufiventris. Forms a superspecies with A. madagascariensis, A. rufiventris, and possibly the A. striatus group.

Movements: Partial migrant and altitudinal migrant in some areas (Bildstein 2006) and also dispersive in some areas. Northernmost European populations are the most migratory, moving south to the Netherlands, France, Belgium, southern Europe, and North Africa for the winter. Taiga birds winter south to India (Brazil 2009). More southern populations, including those in the British Isles, are sedentary or somewhat dispersive (Newton 1975, 1986). Some European poulations are altitudinal migrants, moving from high elevation breeding areas to winter in plains and coastal areas. more....

Habitat and Habits: Inhabits a wide variety of forests, preferring mixed forests patchily distributed in open areas, forest edges, second-growth, riparian areas, and areas of human settlement, especially urban parks. In winter, it occurs in more open areas, often close to human habitations, including farms, villages, and city parks (Kren 2000). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Preys mostly on birds with males taking passerines and females preying on larger birds, including pigeons, jays, and small grouse (Flint 1984, Newton 1986). Also occasionally takes small rodents. Birds often sit in a tree and launch at prey that passes nearby, or they hunt by flying from tree to tree, flushing passerines and then attempting to catch them in openings (Geilikman 1959). more....

Breeding: Builds a platform nest of dry twigs with a deep cup, which is placed in a tree, usually in the crown. In England, conifers are preferred, but broad-leafed trees are also used. In Morocco, nests are placed 6-12 m above the ground in a eucalytpus or oak tree (Thévenot et al. 2003). Cliff nesting has also been claimed, but not substantiated (Heim de Balsac 1948). Clutch size is 3-6 white eggs with bold reddish-brown and brown spots. Only the female incubates, and she is fed by the male.more....

Conservation: One of the most widespread diurnal raptor species, generally common throughout its large range. European populations are stable, and there has been a 53% increase in population indices since 1980, when the species was still suffering from DDE-induced eggshell thinning (PECBMS 2009). Baded on Breeding Bird Survey indices, UK sparrowhawk populations declined by 7% between 1995 and 2008 and by a further 18% between 2008 and 2009 (Risely 2010). Categorized globally as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: The European population was estimated at 280,000 to 380,000 breeding pairs by BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council (2000) and later at 340,000 to 450,000 breeding pairs (BirdLife International 2004). more....

Important References: 
BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council. 2000. European bird
  populations: estimates and trends. BirdLife Conservation Series no. 10.
  BirdLife International,Cambridge, UK.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Kramer, K. 1973. Habicht und Sperber. Neue Brehm-Bücherei. Wittenberg,
Newton, I. The sparrowhawk. T & AD Poyser, Calton, UK.
Newton, I., and I. Wyllie. 1992. Recovery of a Sparrowhawk population in
  relation to declining pesticide contamination. Journal of Applied Ecology
Orta, J. 1994. Eurasian Sparrowhawk. P. 158 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott,
  and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World
  vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Ortlieb, R. 1979. Die Sperber. Neue Brehm-Bücherei no. 523. A. Ziemsen
  Verlag, Wittenberg, Germany.
Tinbergen, L. 1946. De Sperwer als roofvijand van zangvogels. Ardea
van den Burg, A.B., and I. Newton. 2003. Accipiter nisus Sparrowhawk. BWP
  Update 5(1):1-12.

Sites of Interest:
Species account, with an emphasis on European populations.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk photos.

Alzaoby, Yousef
Amar, Arjun
Cirik, Onder
Iribarren, Juan Jesus
Kothe, Sudhanshu
McGrady, Mike
Newton, Ian
Schröpfer, Libor
Smith, George
Zuberogoitia, Iñigo

Last modified: 5/15/2014

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2022. Species account: Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 23 Jan. 2022

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