The males are particularly striking at close range, with their plain blue faces and red eyes and the juveniles have distinctive lines of dark spots down their underparts. The females are basically similar to a female Sparrowhawk but with a neat dark stripe down the middle of the chin. In flight, their gregarious behaviour is usually enough to identify them but you’ll also notice that the males in the flock are conspicuously pale below with contrastingly dark wingtips. Even if plumage details aren’t visible, lone birds can be identified by their shapes, since, compared to Common Sparrowhawks, their wings are longer and more pointed, almost falcon-like.
It occurs in lowland forests near wetlands, nesting in tall trees. It feeds on unretrieved quarry, small mammals, waterbirds, frogs and snakes, hunting over swamps, wet meadows and, in Estonia, over extensively managed agricultural land. Breeds in deciduous woodland especially in hilly areas. Occurs more widely on passage when flocks may be seen overhead.
Accipiter brevipes is a patchily distributed summer visitor to south-eastern Europe,
which constitutes >75% of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population
is small (as few as 3,200 pairs), but was stable between 1970-1990. Although the
species remained stable or increased across the vast majority of its European range
during 1990-2000, there were declines in the sizeable population in Russia, and the
species underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall.
3 600-5 800 breeding pairs in Europe. Most common in Greece 1000-1200, the Ukraine 1000 and Russia 1500-3000. Smaller populations exist in other south-eastern European countries. Turkish population 10-500. This bird inhabits south-eastern Europe, from the Balkan Peninsula to the Ural mountains. Outside Europe it is breeding as far east as western Kazakhstan and Iran. In the European Union its distribution is limited to Greece, where its population is estimated at 1000-1200 breeding pairs, its total European population being around 12000 pairs (EBCC Atlas of European Breeding Birds). Being totally migratory, this species is wintering in north-eastern Africa, but its exact wintering quarters are not well known.
The adult Levant Sparrow-hawks feed mostly on small birds and small ground mammals, plus occasionally bats. The immatures eat many insects. Adults also occasionally eat insects.
Prey is seized either from the ground or in flight.
The EU breeding population is estimated to be not over 1,000 pairs. The agricultural and recreational development of river valleys affects the species’ nesting and hunting habitats. This important, especially in view of the species’ small population and its rather particular habitats requirements. Sharp declines in lizard populations, caused for example, by extremely low winter or spring temperatures, may also disminish the number of breeding pairs. This species has a large range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 10,000,000 km2. It has a large global population estimated to be 10,000-100,000 individuals (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e., declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
The Levant Sparrow-hawk is sexually mature in its first year and will breed with traces of immature plumage still showing. The nests are built in belts of trees along river valleys, usually in broad-leaved trees, and fifteen to thirty feet from the ground. They are small loose structures of sticks about one foot across and a few inches deep, with the cup lined with green leaves. A new one is built each year.
In May three to five eggs are laid at one-day intervals. They are pale bluish green, with small markings of grey and brown, and after incubation appear greyish white. The female incubates, beginning with the first egg. The period is probably between 30 and 35 days.
The young hatch in early June, and leave the nest in August, after a fledging period of 40-45 days. Whilst in the nest they are fed by both parents. They remain in the vicinity of the nest for a couple of weeks after fledging, and then migrate southwards. Between two and five young per nest are successfully reared, the numbers fluctuating each season.
Migratory. Most birds leave areas in Sept and return in Apr or early May; believed to winter in sub-Saharan Africa, but winter quarters on Africa not well known. Migrants concentrate around Bosporus, E Black Sea and especially Israel, where there are peaks during very short periods in second half of Apr and of Sept, and large groups can form; crossing point between Asia and Africa probably at Gulf of Suez. Some nocturnal migration recorded, with birds using flapping flight.
- spanwidth min.: 62 cm
- spanwidth max.: 76 cm
- size min.: 32 cm
- size max.: 37 cm
- incubation min.: 30 days
- incubation max.: 35 days
- fledging min.: 40 days
- fledging max.: 45 days
- broods 1
- eggs min.: 3
- eggs max.: 5
- Conservation Status