Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)


French: Épervier d’Europe German: Sperber Spanish: Gavilán común
Other common names: Northern Sparrowhawk

Falco Nisus


, 1758,



Recent phylogenetic analyses indicated that this species and A. rufiventris are genetically very close, forming a species pair#R; sometimes considered conspecific. The two have traditionally been considered perhaps to form a species-group with A. striatus, possibly including also A. ovampensis. Birds from mountains of C Asia (Tien Shan) sometimes separated as race dementjevi, but thought probably part of a cline#R; Canary Is population described as race teneriffae, but differences from granti minimal. Many other dubious races described. Six subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. n. nisus (Linnaeus, 1758) – Europe and Asia Minor E to W Siberia and Iran; winters S to NE Africa and Middle East.
  • A. n. nisosimilis (Tickell, 1833) – C Asia and C & E Siberia to NE China, Korea and Japan; winters S to S & SE Asia, China and, in small numbers, Africa.
  • A. n. melaschistos A. O. Hume, 1869 – E Afghanistan, Himalayas and mountains of SW & C China.
  • A. n. wolterstorffi O. Kleinschmidt, 1901 – Corsica and Sardinia.
  • A. n. granti Sharpe, 1890 – Madeira and Canary Is.
  • A. n. punicus Erlanger, 1897 – NW Africa from Morocco to Tunisia.
  • Descriptive notes

    28–40 cm; male 105–196 g, female 185–350 g (nisus); wingspan 56–65 cm (male) or 65–78 cm (female). Smallish to medium-sized accipiter;... read more


    Vocal mostly near nest. Main call a series of "kek-kek-kek-kek-kek" cackling notes; calls vary in... read more


    Inhabits wide variety of forest types, including coniferous, deciduous and mixtures of the two;... read more

    Food and feeding

    Almost exclusively small and medium-sized birds, with predominance of former; prey species rarely exceed 120 g in body mass. Enormous... read more


    Laying Apr–Jun, varying with latitude. Nests in woods, preferably coniferous or mixed; often near clearing to ease access to nest.... read more


    Migratory in northernmost parts of Europe and in most of Asia; partially migratory in C Europe;... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Declined drastically in Europe during 1950s and 1960s owing to widespread use of organochlorine pesticides, which killed... read more

    Recommended citation

    Meyburg, B.U., Marks, J.S. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus). 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).