Collared Sparrowhawk (Accipiter cirrocephalus)

Collared Sparrowhawk

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Accipiter cirrocephalus | [authority] Vieillot, 1817 | [UK] Collared Sparrowhawk | [FR] Epervier a collier roux | [DE] Sydneysperber | [ES] Gavilan Acollarado | [NL] Grijskopsperwer


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Accipiter are small and medium-sized hawks, often called Sparrow-hawks or Goshawks. The females are almost invariably much larger than the males – in some cases weighing twice as much – a level of size dimorphism only exceptionally reached in any other genus Falconiformes. Their wings are short and rounded; the tail usually quite long. They are well adapted for flying through dense bush. Bird-catching Sparrow-hawks generally have long and slender legs, with slender digits, the middle one being especially long. Goshawks are usually larger, with shorter, thicker tarsi and digits and a shorter middle digit. Some smaller species have goshawk-like feet and vice versa, making it difficult on a world-wide basis to subdivide the genus on this or any other broad basis. Although many accipiters feed upon birds moreso than do other hawks, some species take many mammals, especially squirrels; others take lizards, frogs, snakes, insects, even snails. In these species the legs and digits are sometimes slender, but short. Accipiters are rarely crested, but some have very attractive colour patterns. Black phases are present, especially in the tropical species. One in Australia has the only pure white phase. Accipiter is the largest genus in the family, having about fifty species. It is present worldwide, but is especially rich in Papua-New Guinea, where a small island like New Britain may have three to five endemic species or distinct sub-species.

Physical charateristics

The Collared Sparrowhawk is a medium-sized, finely built raptor (bird of prey) with bright yellow eyes. The upperparts and side of the head are slate- grey, with a complete chestnut half-collar. The underparts are finely barred pale rufous on white and the rounded wings are rather short. The bill is black, with a pale yellow cere (fleshy bill base). The Collared Sparrowhawk has long fine yellow legs and very long toes, especially the middle toe. The tail is long and generally squared at the tip. The sexes are similar in appearance but males are smaller than females. The Collared Sparrowhawk is also called the Chickenhawk.

wingspan min.: 55 cm wingspan max.: 78 cm
size min.: 29 cm size max.: 38 cm
incubation min.: 33 days incubation max.: 37 days
fledging min.: 28 days fledging max.: 33 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 5  


Australasia : Australia, New Guinea


Occurs in savanna, woodland, disturbed open forest, and secondary growth and forest edges. Perches inconspicuously within the forest. Often lives unnoticed in mature-treed suburban parks and gardens, flying from tree to tree, and sometimes soaring to great heights. Probably more common in arid areas than the Brown Goshawk. Usually solitary, occasionally in pairs. Probably relatively common, but easily overlooked.


Pairs nest solitarily, and the nest is a platform of sticks lined with green leaves and placed 4-39 m above the ground in the fork of a living tree. Clutch size is usually 3 or 4 eggs (range 2-5). The egg is white, unmarked or with a few brown blotches or spots. The incubation period is 35 days, and the nestling period is about 28-33 days. The period of dependence after fledging lasts about six weeks.

Feeding habits

In Australia, it feeds mostly on small birds, particularly passerines, lizards, insects and (rarely) small mammals. In New Guinea, typical it takes small mammals, small birds, and insects, which it often captures in swift, dashing flight. It forages by perch hunting from a concealed position in foliage, by short flights from tree to tree, or by quartering flight or low fast flight.

Video Collared Sparrowhawk


copyright: Tom Tarrant


This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Collared Sparrowhawk status Least Concern


Collared Sparrowhawks are generally resident but may be partly migratory, however their movements are poorly known. Irruptive or local migrant, with juveniles dispersing from breeding areas.

Distribution map

Collared Sparrowhawk distribution range map

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