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A photo of a Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), male
Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Male

Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Accipiter nisus

The Eurasian sparrowhawk, also known as the northern sparrowhawk or simply the sparrowhawk, is a small bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. Males exhibit bluish-grey upperparts and orange-barred underparts, while females and juveniles are brown above with brown barring below. Notably, the female is up to 25% larger than the male, a significant sexual dimorphism in size among bird species.

Identification Tips

Adult males have slate-grey or sometimes bluish upperparts and orange-barred underparts, which may appear plain orange from a distance. Their irides are typically orange-yellow or orange-red. Females are larger, with dark brown or greyish-brown upperparts and brown-barred underparts, and their irides are bright yellow to orange. Juveniles are warm brown above with rusty fringes and coarsely barred or spotted brown below, with pale yellow eyes.

Habitat

The Eurasian sparrowhawk can be found in a variety of habitats, including deciduous and coniferous woodlands, as well as urban areas with sufficient tree cover. They are adept at navigating through dense foliage and are often seen in gardens and parks within cities.

Distribution

This species is widespread across the temperate and subtropical regions of the Old World. Northern populations are migratory, heading south for the winter, while southern populations tend to be resident or engage in dispersive movements.

Behaviour

The Eurasian sparrowhawk is a skilled hunter, specializing in catching woodland birds. It employs a surprise attack strategy, often using cover to approach unsuspecting prey before launching a swift and agile pursuit.

Song & Calls

The call of the Eurasian sparrowhawk is a series of sharp "kek-kek-kek" notes, which can be heard during territorial displays or when alarmed.

Breeding

Breeding occurs in suitable woodland, with nests built using twigs in trees. The female lays four to five pale blue, brown-spotted eggs. The success of the breeding attempt hinges on the female maintaining a high weight while the male provides food.

Similar Species

The Eurasian sparrowhawk can be confused with the Levant sparrowhawk and the shikra, though it is distinguishable by its unique call and size. The male may be mistaken for the similarly sized male Eurasian Goshawk, but the sparrowhawk is more slender with shorter wings and a square-ended tail.

Diet and Feeding

Males typically prey on smaller birds such as tits, finches, and sparrows, while females often target thrushes and starlings. The Eurasian sparrowhawk's diet also includes small mammals and occasionally insects.

Conservation Status

The Eurasian sparrowhawk is classified as Least Concern by BirdLife International. Its population faced a significant decline due to the use of organochlorine insecticides but has since recovered following the ban of these chemicals.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Sounds

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Recorded by: © 
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Eurasian Sparrowhawk Fun Facts

Did you know?
In Eurasian Sparrowhawk, males and females have the largest size difference of any bird of prey species.

Eurasian Sparrowhawks on Birda

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