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Eurasian sparrowhawk

Accipiter nisus

Photo by Tomi Muukkonen (Vogelwarte)

Common name:
Eurasian sparrowhawk (en); gavião-da-Europa (pt); épervier d’Europe (fr); gavilán común (es); sperber (de)

Order Falconiformes
Family Accipitridae

This species breeds throughout most of Eurasia, from western Europe to eastern Russia and south to Japan, Korea and central China. They also breed in Morocco, Tunisia, northern Algeria and the Canary Islands. The more northern and eastern populations migrate south to winter in southern Asia and in eastern Africa along the Nile basin.

These birds are 28-40 cm long and have a wingspan of 56-78. Females tend to be larger than males, weighing 185-350 g while males weigh 105-195 g.

The Eurasian sparrowhawk is found in a wide range of forest habitats, including coniferous, deciduous and mixed in boreal, temperate and tropical areas, usually favouring areas interspersed with open areas such as scrublands, savannas and arable land. They also use plantations, rural gardens and urban areas. They occur from sea level up to an altitude of 4.500 m.

They mainly hunt passerines, but can take birds up to the size of a pigeon, jay or even a small grouse. Occasionally, also small mammals such as voles, shrews, young rabbits and squirrels, and small lizards and amphibians, and rarely insects and carrion.

Eurasian sparrowhawks are monogamous and breed in April-August. the nest is mainly built by the male, consisting of a platform of sticks and twigs placed in a fork in a tree about 6-12 m above the ground. There the female lays 3-6 white eggs which she incubates alone for 32-34 days while the male brings her food. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 24-30 days after hatching, but only become fully independent 20-30 days later. they reach sexual maturity at 1-3 years of age.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has an extremely large breeding range and the global population is estimated to be above 1,5 million individuals. In Europe the population is suspected to be stable at present. The population suffered dramatic declines during the 1950s and 1960s due to widespread use of organochlorine pesticides such as DDT, but it has since recovered following bans on harmful pesticides.

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