Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Ciconiiformes / Accipitridae / Accipiter / Species
Accipiter nisus - Eurasian sparrowhawk (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Sparrowhawk
  • European sparrowhawk
  • Epervier d'Europe (French)
  • Sperber (German)
  • Sparviere (Italian)
  • Gavilán común (Spanish)
  • Sparvhök (Swedish)
  • Sperwer (Dutch)

Names for newly-hatched


Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Gordon McLeod

Species Editor

Debra Bourne

Major References

B89, B104, B162, B163, B164, B165, B166

Aviculture references:

(UK Contacts)

(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

  • Birds of Prey

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

  • Birds of Prey

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Aviculture Information


Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length Head to tail:
  • 30-38cm (B165); 28-38cm / 11-15 ins. (B166); 28-38cm (B162).
  • Male: 29-34cm (B164).
  • Female: 35-41cm (B164).


  • Male: 58-65cm (B164).
  • Female: 67-80cm (B164).
Adult weight General --
Male Accipiter nisus nisus 110-196g (B104, B162).
Female Accipiter nisus nisus 185-342g (B104, B162).
Newly-hatched weight 13.5g (B104)
Growth rate To 133-162 (males), 227g (female) in 26 days (B104)

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Adult Bill Male Base blue-tinged to tip grey-black , hooked, with cere yellow to yellow-green (B104, B164, B165, B166).
Variations (If present) --
Eyes Male Orange-yellow to orange-red (B104, B164, B165).
Variations(If present) Female bright yellow to orange (B104)
Juvenile Bill Black, hooked, with cere yellow green to dark green (B104, B164, B165).
Eyes (Iris) Grey in nestling, later yellow (pale yellow to orange-yellow) (B104, B164, B165).

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Adult Male Yellow to orange-yellow, claws black (B104, B164, B165, B166).
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Yellow (B164, B165).

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Adult Male
  • Upperparts: slate-grey, sometimes with bluish tinge; shoulder may have white spots, rump grey.
  • Head: head including crown slate grey with cheeks rufous and eyebrow (line over eye) white. Neck short.
  • Underparts: white with rufous barring. Throat white.
  • Wings: short, broad upper flight feathers and coverts slate grey; underside (whole wing) whitish with darker barring.
  • Tail: long. Upper and under: grey with few darker bands.

(B164, B165, B166)

Variations (If present) Female:
  • Upperparts: grey or brownish-grey.
  • Head: cheek grey not rufous, eyebrow more prominent.
  • Underparts: white with grey barring.

(B164, B165, B166)

  • Upperparts: dark brown.
  • Wings: forewing feathers edged rufous.
  • Underparts: particularly breast has barring coarse, broken.

(B164, B165)

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

Semi-altricial. Helpless, downy, eyes open (B163, B163).

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Reproductive Season

Time of year
  • April to June (B166).
  • Britain and north-west Europe: eggs laid from late April/early May ( may be two weeks earlier in southern Europe, two to three weeks later further north) (B162).
No. of Clutches One (B163, B166).

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Nest placement and structure

  • Solitary nests.
  • Twig pile built in fork of tree.
  • Loose structure with deep cup.
  • Fine twigs and bark for lining.
  • Conifers preferred.
  • 6-12m high.
  • Build new nest each year.

(B162, B163, B164, B166)

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 4-6 (B162, B163); 4-5 (B166).
Range 3-7 (B162, B163).
Egg description: Rounded oval. Not glossy. Blue-white (sometimes blue-green or green); blotched/streaked with brown/red-brown. 40mm long (B162, B163, B166).

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33-35 days per egg; 39-42 days whole clutch(B162, B163).

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Almost synchronous (B163).

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24-30 days; males earlier than females (B162, B163); 32 days (B166).

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Sexual Maturity

Males Usually one or two years old but occasionally older. (B104)
Females Usually one or two years old but occasionally older. (B104)

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Feeding Behaviour

  • Perches to wait for prey (changes to next perch after some minutes), on seeing prey flies low, takes prey by surprise.
  • Seizes prey in the air (short or longer chase) or takes from perch.
  • Also flies along e.g. wood edges looking for prey.


Newly-hatched Fed by parents (B163).

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building By both birds, but mostly by male (B163).
Incubation By female (B163).
Newly-hatched Male brings food, which is fed to chicks by female (B163).

Fed by adults for several weeks after fledging (B163).

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Social Behaviour

  • Solitary outside breeding season.
  • Hunting areas not defended.

(B162, B166)

Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

  • Monogamous seasonal pair bond; may be formed up to three months before egg laying.
  • Occasional bigamy by male: females sometimes share one nest.
  • Conspicuous aerial displays over nesting territory.


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Predation in Wild


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Activity Patterns

  • Perch openly.
  • Take off and land from both vegetation and ground.


Circadian Diurnal.

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Natural Diet


  • Small birds (males usually to 40g occasionally to 120g; females usually to 150g occasionally to 500g ).
  • Small mammals taken sometimes.
  • Insects taken very rarely, in some regions.

(B162, B163, B164, B166).

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Western Palearctic and eastwards - widespread northern Asia, breeds in Iran, Himalayas, Japan (B162); Palearctic (B89)
  • Britain: Common and widespread (B165, B166)


  • Variable, from mostly resident or dispersive to migratory.
  • Northern populations migrate south for winter, to northern Africa and south-east Asia, e.g. Asian birds move as far south as India.
  • British and Irish breeding birds are resident, but there is an additional winter population.

(B89, B162, B163)

Occasional and Accidental Spitsbergen, Bear Island, Iceland, Faeroes, Western Sahara (B162).


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  • Mainly wooded areas: forests, woods, fields, heaths.
  • Breeding: woodlands / forests.
  • Hunts in woodlands but also elsewhere: fields, hedgerows, marshlands, suburban gardens.

(B162, B163, B164, B165, B166)

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Intraspecific variation

Geographical variation, clinal (B162).
  • Accipiter nisus nisosimilis (central and east Siberia) slightly paler, larger.
  • Accipiter nisus punicus (North Africa) larger, paler.
  • Accipiter nisus wolterstorffi (Corsica, Sardinia) smaller, darker, ventral barring heavier and broader.
  • Accipiter nisus granti (Madeira, Canary Islands) slightly darker, ventral barring heavier and broader.


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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Widespread Europe and Asia (B163).

General Legislation --
CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats Former severe declines due to persecution by gamekeepers and also pesticides; numbers increased more recently (B162, B163).

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Captive Populations


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