Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus

Linnaeus, 1758

Key Facts

Please click for an explanation or hover over for the source
Scientific Classification Accipitriformes > Accipitridae
Field Codes SH , SPARR , 2690
Status in UK (A)  Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
Number in Britain 31 thousand Pairs (Summer)
Conservation Status
in Europe Least Concern
Globally Least Concern
Measurements Length: 33 cm    |  Wingspan: 62 cm    |  Weight: Male 150 g   Female 260 g   
Identification Tips View pictures from the Crossley ID Guide , or listen to sound-clips from Xeno-Canto
World Distribution BREEDS: Europe, n&c Asia, WINTERS: south to n Africa & s Asia
Found in Wood & fields
Diet Birds (Male to 100g, Female to 500g), attacks from cover, pursues for short distance
Scientific name from L.: accipiter=hawk (from accipere=to grasp) and L.: nisus=the sparrowhawk
Subspecies nisus recorded in Britain (of 7 subsp. in the world)
TitBit The female is up to 25% larger than the male, the largest difference in any bird, and is thought to be because smaller males are more agile, so better hunters of birds, which they eat almost exclusively.
Population Trends from BirdTrends
Regional Population Trends are available on the BBS Results page
Distribution Maps from the Atlas Mapstore  or modelled from BBS results
British Population Size
   Summer: 31 thousand Pairs in 2016
First Record Recorded in Anglo-Saxon times [Fossil evidence from early Holocene, up to 10,000 yr ago]
Current Conservation Status GREEN
Past Assessments 2009-2014 GREEN 2002-2007 GREEN 1996-2001 GREEN
Historical Trends
1800-49 1850-99 1900-39 1940-69 1969-95 1996-2020
Listed on the Annexes of WBD(I*), Bern(III), Bonn(II), CITES(II)
European Population Size 180 to 270 thousand pairs   (Trend in Numbers)
European Distribution Map European Breeding Bird Atlas
Download population assessment from Birds in Europe
Breeding Season Habitats Common in: Deciduous Wood, Coniferous Wood
Relative Frequency in Each Habitat
Broadleaf Conifer Scrub Heathland Moorland Pasture Arable Marsh Bogs Reedbed Coastal Villages Towns

Migration & Movements

View movements of the last year using the EuroBirdPortal Viewer
View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report

Breeding & Survival

-- Productivity and Nesting Success
View latest trends from the Nest Record Scheme
First Clutches Laid 11 May (30 Apr - 29 May)
Number of Broods 1
Egg Size 40 x 32 mm    Weight = 22.5 g (of which 8 % is shell)
Clutch Size 4 - 5 eggs | 4.55 ± 1.02 (2 - 9) N = 1407
Incubation Period 33 days | 33.16 ± 1.37 (30.5 - 36.5) N = 1407 | by Female
Fledging Period 27 - 31 days | 28.14 ± 3.27 (22 - 33.5) N = 2645 | as Altricial, downy
-- Survival and Longevity
Maximum Age from Ringing 17 years 1 months 11 days (set in 1999)
Typical Lifespan 4 years with breeding typically at 1 year
Adult Survival 0.690 (Male:0.670 ; Female:0.680 )  
Juvenile Survival 0.340 (in First-Year)
View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


Ring Size D (males) E (females)
Wing Length
  Males 198.1 ± 6.7   |   Range 190 - 207 mm, N =893
  Females 233.7 ± 7.5   |   Range 224 - 245 mm, N =382
Feather measurements and photos on featherbase
Body Weight
  Males 151.1 ± 16.41   |   Range 131.0 - 180.0 g , N =681
  Females 266.0 ± 41.42   |   Range 186.0 - 345.0 g , N =248

Other names

Also known as Eurasian Sparrowhawk
For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name
Gaelic: Speireag Welsh: Gwalch Glas Catalan: esparver comú
Czech: krahujec obecný Danish: Spurvehøg Dutch: Sperwer
Estonian: raudkull Finnish: varpushaukka French: Épervier d’Europe
German: Sperber Hungarian: karvaly Icelandic: Sparrhaukur
Irish: Spioróg Italian: Sparviere Latvian: zvirbulvanags, veja vanags
Lithuanian: paprastasis paukštvanagis Norwegian: Spurvehauk Polish: krogulec (zwyczajny)
Portuguese: gavião-da-europa Spanish: Gavilán común Swedish: sparvhök

More information

Books and Monographs

  • van den Burg, A.B. & Newton, I. 2003 BWP Update 5:1-12
  • Newton, I. 1987 The Sparrowhawk Shire Publications, Princes Risborough [Jour: S]
  • Cobham, D. & Pearson, B. 2014 A sparrowhawk's lament: how British breeding birds of prey are faring Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ [598.5 COB]

Links from

See also

This page should be cited as: Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts: profiles of birds occurring in Britain & Ireland. BTO, Thetford (, accessed on )