Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Black Sparrowhawk (Accipiter melanoleucus)


French: Autour noir German: Mohrenhabicht Spanish: Azor blanquinegro
Other common names: Black Goshawk, Great Sparrowhawk

Accipiter melanoleueus

[sic] A. Smith

, 1830,

South Africa


Has been thought to be a member of the putative A. gentilis species-group (see that species). Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. m. temminckii (Hartlaub, 1855) – Senegambia (non-breeding visitor) E to Central African Republic and W DRCongo.
  • A. m. melanoleucus A. Smith, 1830 – E Sudan, Eritrea, N & W Ethiopia and E Africa (including Pemba I and Zanzibar, off Tanzania) S to Angola, Namibia and E & S South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    40–58 cm; male 430–490 g, female 650–980 g; wingspan 77–105 cm. Pied plumage of adult notable, with white breast in normal morph, or at most white... read more


    Only vocalizes during breeding season; pairs appear to duet prior to egg-laying, male giving high-... read more


    All types of forest, dense woodland and exotic plantations, from tropical lowlands to high montane... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly birds of 80–300 g, up to size of guineafowl, but especially doves, pigeons and francolins. Exceptionally recorded taking... read more


    Laying Aug–Nov in W Africa; Mar–Jun and Oct–Dec in Zaire and Kenya; May–Mar in S & C Africa (peak Jul–Aug... read more


    Resident and territorial in most areas. However, rapidly colonizes new plantations in grassland or... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Widespread and common, but apparently at low density in extensive lowland rain forest tracts despite nest territory of only... read more

    Recommended citation

    Kemp, A.C. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Black Sparrowhawk (Accipiter melanoleucus). 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 24 February 2020).