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A photo of a Japanese Sparrowhawk (Accipiter gularis), male
Japanese Sparrowhawk, Male

Japanese Sparrowhawk

Accipiter gularis

The Japanese sparrowhawk, a diminutive raptor of the Accipitridae family, is a bird of prey with a compact build characterized by broader, rounder wings and a shorter tail. Males exhibit a dark back and a whitish underside with brown-grey barring and red-brown hues on the flanks, while females display heavier brown barring on the abdomen. Both sexes are marked by a distinctive stripe across the throat.

Identification Tips

To identify the Japanese sparrowhawk, look for its small size, with males measuring 23–30 centimeters in length, and its unique coloration. Males have a dark slate upper body with a white nape, and females are larger with brown upperparts and no red-brown barring. Juveniles are dark brown with buff or red-brown sides and cream-colored underparts with streaking. The species has a small, curved bill, long pointed wingtips, and long, slim legs and toes.


This species favors a variety of forest habitats, including deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forests, typically at elevations below 1000 meters. It is also found in southern taiga and subalpine zones near rivers.


The Japanese sparrowhawk breeds in eastern Russia, the Korean peninsula, Japan, and Northeastern China. Its distribution varies by subspecies, with some populations migrating to Southeast Asia and Indonesia for winter, while others remain resident in Japan.


During the breeding season, the Japanese sparrowhawk is elusive, often seen alone or in pairs within forested areas. It migrates between mid-September to November and mid-April to June, sometimes forming small flocks. In winter, it may perch in more open landscapes.

Song & Calls

The species is vocal during the breeding season, producing a chattering "kiki-kik-kik…" call that varies in speed and volume depending on the context. Other sounds include a mewing "key-key" and a shrill "kee-bick."


Breeding occurs from June to August, with courtship displays involving aerial acrobatics and nest building in trees. Clutch sizes vary by region, with 4 to 5 eggs laid in Siberia and 2 to 3 in China and Japan. Incubation lasts 25 to 28 days, and fledging occurs in June in Japan and August in Siberia.

Diet and Feeding

The Japanese sparrowhawk preys on small birds such as sparrows and warblers, as well as small mammals like voles, bats, insects, and occasionally reptiles. It hunts by surprise from perches or by chasing in flight.

Conservation status

Globally, the species is listed as Least Concern, with a stable population estimated at 13,400 to 67,000 mature adults. However, it is protected in China and considered endangered in Japan, with concerns over nesting site declines and breeding success.

Japanese Sparrowhawk Sounds

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