Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Besra (Accipiter virgatus)


French: Épervier besra German: Besrasperber Spanish: Gavilán besra

Falco virgatus


, 1822,



Closely related to A. gularis, which has been considered a race of present species, and both are apparently closely related to A. fasciatus (see A. gularis). A. nanus has been thought to be close to present species and A. gularis, but little evidence for such a relationship. Position of proposed form nisoides confused (see A. gularis). Eleven subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. v. kashmiriensis Whistler, 1936 – W Himalayan foothills from NE Pakistan and Kashmir E to N India (Uttarakhand).
  • A. v. affinis Hodgson, 1836 – Nepal E to C & S China, S to Hainan and SE Asia.
  • A. v. fuscipectus Mees, 1970 – mountains of Taiwan.
  • A. v. besra Jerdon, 1839 – SW India and Sri Lanka; probably also SE India.
  • A. v. abdulalii Mees, 1981 – Andaman Is, and possibly Nicobar Is.
  • A. v. confusus E. J. O. Hartert, 1910 – N & C Philippines (Luzon, Catanduanes, Mindoro, Panay, Negros).
  • A. v. quagga#R Parkes, 1973 – SE Philippines (Samar, Biliran, Leyte, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Mindanao).
  • A. v. rufotibialis Sharpe, 1887 – N Borneo.
  • A. v. vanbemmeli Voous, 1950 – Sumatra.
  • A. v. virgatus (Temminck, 1822) – Java and Bali.
  • A. v. quinquefasciatus Mees, 1984 – Flores (Lesser Sundas).
  • Descriptive notes

    24–36 cm; males 83–99 g (confusus) and 100–140 g (affinis), females 131–140 g (confusus) and 190–215 g (affinis... read more


    Loud “ki-weeer” and rapid series of “tchew-tchew-tchew” notes; latter may refer to food-begging... read more


    Wide variety of forests, including moist deciduous and evergreen montane forest, secondary forest,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly birds, but also insects and lizards. Feeds like typical sparrowhawk, with quick agile chase of birds launched from inconspicuous... read more


    Season varies extensively with wide range: Jan–Jun in S India and Sri Lanka; Mar–Jun in N India; May–Sept in Borneo; Mar... read more


    Mainly sedentary, but some birds from N India and Nepal may move down onto plains in winter.... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Generally considered uncommon throughout extensive range but probably overlooked given its unobtrusive behaviour when not... read more

    Recommended citation

    Clark, W.S. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Besra (Accipiter virgatus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 27 February 2020).