Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Accipiter nisus

Last updated: November 2, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Kalina Georgieva/Shutterstock.com

Females are typically 25% larger than males.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Accipitriformes
Family
Accipitridae
Genus
Accipiter
Scientific Name
Accipiter nisus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Conservation Status

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Locations

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Locations

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Facts

Prey
Small woodland birds
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Solitary/Pairs
Fun Fact
Females are typically 25% larger than males.
Estimated Population Size
2 to 3.2 million
Biggest Threat
hunting, trapping, pesticide ingestion, wildfires, and pollution
Most Distinctive Feature
Bright yellow and orange eyes
Distinctive Feature
Short, broad wings and long tails
Other Name(s)
Northern sparrowhawk
Wingspan
23 to 30 inches
Incubation Period
33 days
Age Of Independence
2 months
Age Of Fledgling
24 to 28 days
Habitat
coniferous woodlands, parks, gardens
Predators
owls, northern goshawks, peregrine falcons, golden eagles, red foxes, and martens
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Type
Bird
Common Name
Eurasian sparrowhawk
Number Of Species
6
Location
Europe, Asia, Africa
Nesting Location
Fork of a conifer tree near the trunk
Migratory
1

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Yellow
  • Red
  • Orange
Skin Type
Feathers
Top Speed
49 mph
Lifespan
5 years on average
Weight
3.9 to 12 ounces
Length
11 to 16 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
1 to 3 years

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They need adequately spaced trees to weave in and out for hunting.

Summary

The Eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) is a small bird of prey native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. They inhabit coniferous woodlands and city parks in over 100 countries, where they zip around trees and attack their prey. Small woodland birds are their primary food source, and females eat more than males to aid in successful reproduction. Discover the fascinating facts about the Eurasian sparrowhawk, including where it lives, what it eats, and how it behaves.

5 Amazing Eurasian Sparrowhawk Facts

  • These birds are frequent visitors to backyard gardens and city parks.
  • Their bodies are perfect for hunting in confined spaces, where they weave through objects and sneak up on their prey.
  • They can reach speeds up to 50 mph!
  • They can chase their prey on foot through dense vegetation.
  • Females are typically 25% larger than males.

Where to Find the Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Eurasian sparrowhawks live in Europe, Asia, and Africa in over 100 countries, including the United Kingdom, Russia, India, Iran, and Sudan. Populations in more temperate southern regions stay in their environments year-round, while those breeding in northern areas, like Russia, migrate to warmer climates during winter. They prefer coniferous woodlands that are neither too dense nor too sparse. They need adequately spaced trees to weave in and out of for hunting. You may also find them in city parks and gardens as long as enough tall trees are present.  

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Eurasian Sparrowhawk Nest

They breed in well-grown coniferous woodlands, where they place their nest in the fork of a tree near the trunk or on top of a small shrub. They build a new nest every year (males do most of the work), using loose twigs to make a two-foot-long structure, and line it with bark chips.

Scientific Name

The Eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) belongs to the Accipitriformes order in the Accipitridae family, which includes diurnal birds of prey with strongly hooked bills. The Accipiter genus consists of 51 species of goshawks and sparrowhawks. There are six recognized subspecies of Eurasian sparrowhawks.

Size, Appearance, & Behavior

The Eurasian sparrowhawk is a small bird of prey, measuring 11 to 16 inches long and weighing 3.9 to 12 ounces, with a 23 to 31-inch wingspan. Females are 25% larger than males, weighing twice as much, which aids in their reproduction success. This species has short, broad wings, long tails, and small bills. Adult males have grey upper parts and red barred underparts, with orangish-yellow eyes. Adult females have dark brown or greyish-brown upper parts and brown-barred undersides, with bright yellow to orange eyes. 

This species is solitary and lives singly or in pairs, whether hunting, roosting, or nesting. Their bodies are perfect for hunting in confined spaces and are often found in gardens in towns and cities. They are swift and agile, using rapid wingbeats to fly fast and low to the ground. Their average speed is between 30 and 40 mph, but they can reach speeds up to 50 mph! And they make loud vocalizations, such as high-pitched cackling and shrill alarm calls. 

sparrowhawk
Adult male Eurasian sparrowhawks have grey upper parts, with orangish-yellow eyes.

Edwin Godinho/Shutterstock.com

Migration Pattern and Timing

Some Eurasian sparrowhawks are residents in their environments, while others are medium-distance migrants. Most of the European populations live in their environments year-round. But those that breed in northern regions like Russia will migrate south for winter to countries such as Iran, India, and Sudan. You can find them as far south as Tanzania.

Diet

Eurasian sparrowhawks are carnivores who hunt by surprise attacks. 

What Does the Eurasian Sparrowhawk Eat?

Their diet primarily consists of small woodland birds, such as finches, tits, sparrows, buntings, starlings, and thrushes. Females typically eat larger birds, around 18 ounces more than males. These sparrowhawks also eat mice, bats, voles, shrews, squirrels, rabbits, carrion, and insects. They hunt by surprise attack, hiding behind hedges and copses and waiting for birds before darting out fast and low. It can stoop over prey from significant heights, flip upside down to grab prey from below, and run after them through vegetation. However, only 10% of their attacks are successful.

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

The IUCN lists the Eurasian sparrowhawk as LC or “least concern.” Due to its extensive range and extremely large and stable population, this species does not meet the “threatened” status thresholds. Despite their stable population, this species is still vulnerable to several dangers. Their biggest threats include hunting, trapping, pesticide ingestion, wildfires, and pollution

What Eats the Eurasian Sparrowhawk?

Their natural predators include owls, northern goshawks, peregrine falcons, golden eagles, red foxes, and martens. Raptors may try to rob the nest of Eurasian sparrowhawks, but females stand guard and are successful in running off most intruders. Males typically stand watch and make alarm calls.

Reproduction, Young, and Molting

Eurasian sparrowhawks form monogamous pair bonds during each breeding season but may change mates yearly. Males feed their mate extra food before she lays eggs. Studies show that females with high weight are more successful in laying more eggs. She lays an average of four or five pale blue eggs with brown spots and incubates them for 33 days. Over 20% of nestlings over two days old die from starvation, abandonment, bad weather, and nest predation. The young fledge the nest 24 to 28 days after hatching, but their parents continue feeding them for another 30 days. They reach sexual maturity between one and three years and live an average of five years, but they can live up to 20 years. 

Population

The global Eurasian sparrowhawk population is estimated to number two to three million mature individuals. Their population is stable and has increased in Europe since the 1980s and remained steady over the last three generations. Their numbers are not experiencing any extreme fluctuations or fragmentations.

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food, and travel. She graduated Kappa Beta Delta from Florida State College with a business degree before realizing writing was her true passion. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking!

Eurasian Sparrowhawk FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where do Eurasian sparrowhawks live?

Eurasian sparrowhawks live in Europe, Asia, and Africa in over 100 countries. They prefer coniferous woodlands that are neither too dense nor too sparse.

Do sparrowhawks have any predators?

Their natural predators include owls, northern goshawks, peregrine falcons, golden eagles, red foxes, and martens.

How big is a Eurasian sparrowhawk?

The Eurasian sparrowhawk is a small bird of prey, measuring 11 to 16 inches long and weighing 3.9 to 12 ounces, with a 23 to 31-inch wingspan.

What do Eurasian sparrowhawks eat?

Their diet primarily consists of small woodland birds, such as finches, tits, sparrows, buntings, starlings, and thrushes.

What threatens the Eurasian sparrowhawk?

Their biggest threats include hunting, trapping, pesticide ingestion, wildfires, and pollution.

Do Eurasian sparrowhawks mate for life?

Eurasian sparrowhawks form monogamous pair bonds during each breeding season but may change mates yearly.

How many Eurasian sparrowhawks are there?

The global Eurasian sparrowhawk population is estimated to number two to three million mature individuals.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. IUCN Redlist, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22695624/199751254
  2. Jstage, Available here: https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/osj/17/1/17_95/_article/-char/ja/
  3. Wiley Online Library, Available here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1600-048X.2010.05080.x
  4. Inter Science, Available here: https://archive.ph/20130105061322/http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/122567228/abstract

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