Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Japanese Sparrowhawk (Accipiter gularis)


French: Épervier du Japon German: Trillersperber Spanish: Gavilancito japonés

Astur (Nisus) gularis

Temminck and Schlegel

, 1844,



Closely related to A. virgatus, of which has been considered a race. Recent phylogenetic analyses suggested that, unexpectedly, these two and A. fasciatus form a monophyletic group, this group being close to A. cirrocephalus#R. Individual variation considerable; mainland form sibiricus synonymized with nominate by some authors#R, and species sometimes treated as monotypic. Identity of proposed form nisoides has caused considerable confusion: this name has commonly been used (tentatively) for populations of A. virgatus breeding in Myanmar, Andaman Is and some other parts of SE Asia#R; described by Blyth in 1847, with type locality Malacca, the type specimen (female) is now thought to be lost; in 1866, Blyth himself withdrew his name nisoides, stating that, after access to previously unavailable literature, he now realized that his bird was identical to A. gularis, which is a migrant in those areas; however, due to the original mistake, and some confusion referring to the dating of the name gularis, name nisoides continued to appear in the literature, with some spurious population assignations based solely on males (male was unknown in original description); after lumping of A. gularis and A. virgatus, name became more commonly repeated as A. virgatus nisoides, and when A. gularis was resplit many authors retained nisoides as a supposed form of A.virgatus; despite all this confusion, it now appears clear that nisoides is nothing more than a junior synonym of gularis#R. Three subspecies normally accepted.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. g. sibiricus Stepanyan, 1959 – upper R Ob and Mongolia E to middle R Lena and Sea of Okhotsk; presumably winters in SE Asia and perhaps Greater Sundas.
  • A. g. gularis (Temminck & Schlegel, 1844) – Russian Far East, Sakhalin, Korea, NE China and Japan; winters S to SE China, Philippines, Greater Sundas, N Sulawesi and Lesser Sundas (E to Timor).
  • A. g. iwasakii Mishima, 1962 – S Ryukyu Is (Yonaguni, Iriomote, Ishigaki).
  • Descriptive notes

    23–30 cm; male 85–142 g, female 111–193 g; wingspan 46–58 cm. Small accipiter with broader and more rounded wings and shorter tail than A.... read more


    Described as shrill “kee-bick” and mewing “kew-kew” and as chattering “kik-kik-kik”. During pre-... read more


    Different types of forest, including coniferous (e.g. firs and spruces in S taiga), deciduous and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly small forest passerines and occasionally medium-sized birds, e.g. Azure-winged Magpies (Cyanopica cyanea) and feral pigeons... read more


    Lays fairly late: mainly Jun in S Siberia, though somewhat earlier in China and Japan. Nests in tree, normally near trunk, up to 10 m above... read more


    Mainly migratory, although sedentary in Taiwan and S Ryukyu Is; small numbers winter in breeding... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Status and trends of populations very poorly known. Largely on basis of counts of migrants in Indonesia, global population... read more

    Recommended citation

    Orta, J. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Japanese Sparrowhawk (Accipiter gularis). 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).