Profile Sparrowhawk     Literature page Sparrowhawk
[order] Falconiformes

[order] Falconiformes | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Accipiter nisus | [UK] Sparrowhawk | [FR] Epervier d’Europe | [DE] Sperber | [ES] Gavilán Vulgar | [IT] Sparviero eurasiatico | [NL] Sperwer

Sperwer determination

copyright: Eddy Howland

The Sparrowhawk is about the same size as a Kestrel and has a similarly long tail but its wings have rounded not pointed tips and are shorter as if not fully extended. Whether soaring or gliding, Sparrowhawks have a characteristic flap-flap-glide action

Breeds and winters in woodland, particularly coniferous, and also occurs in winter in farmland and even gardens

Accipiter nisus is a widespread breeder across most of Europe, which accounts for
less than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is large
(>340,000 pairs), and underwent a large increase between 1970-1990. Although there
were declines in a few countries during 1990-2000, populations were stable or
increasing across most of Europe-including the key one in Russia-and the species
increased slightly overall.
There are 32 000 breeding pairs in Britain with a further 11 000 in Ireland. Including non-breeders, by the end of summer the resident population will probably be around 170 000 birds.

150,000-170,000 breeding pairs widespread throughout most of Europe. The UK is a stronghold with about 34000 pairs. Russian population 140000-180000 Turkish population 3000-10000.

The sparrowhawk is a specialist feeder, as its name suggests. It takes birds of varying sizes, from finches and sparrows, to the size of wood pigeons.
It does on occasions take small rodents and other small land based prey, but birds account for well over 90% and maybe as high as 98% of their diet.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 100,000-1,000,000 km2. It has a large global population estimated to be 1,000,000-10,000,000 individuals (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001). Global population trends have not been quantified, but populations appear to be stable (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001) so 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]

Eggs from late April or early May in Britain and north-west Europe. Up to 2 weeks earlier in southern Europe and 2-3 weeks later in northern parts of range.
The nest is build in the fork of tree, often close to trunk where 2 or 3 branches start at same level. Also on horizontal branch, usually in lower parts of main canopy. Conifers are preferred where available. Selected tree usually close to path or clearing for convenient access. A new nest is built each year, sometimes on foundation of old nest of Woodpigeon or other species, though normally close to previous nests. The nest is a loose structure of twigs with deep cup. Nest size varies with position in tree, with nests in forks built up until surface area is large enough. Twigs up to 60 cm long are used, during laying, lined with fine twigs or bark chips. The clutch size is 4-6 (3-7) and the incubation lasts 33-35 days per egg, average 39-42 days for complete clutch. The young fledge after 24-30 days, males before females.

Migratory in northernmost parts of Europe and in most of Asia. Partially migratory in Central Europe. Sedentary in South of range. Various Central European countries receive Northern migrants, some of their breeding birds possibly migrating further South, reaching Mediterranean countries. Most migration actually from North-East to South-West. Few migrants reach Africa, although some birds winter in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, occasionally South to Kenya and Tanzania. Siberian population winters in South and South-East Asia.


  1. Measurements
  2. spanwidth min.: 58 cm
  3. spanwidth max.: 80 cm
  4. size min.: 29 cm
  5. size max.: 41 cm
  6. Breeding
  7. incubation min.: 33 days
  8. incubation max.: 35 days
  9. fledging min.: 24 days
  10. fledging max.: 30 days
  11. broods 1
  12. eggs min.: 4
  13. eggs max.: 6
  14. Conservation Status
  15. Sperwer status Least Concern
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