Levant Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes)

Levant Sparrowhawk

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Accipiter brevipes | [authority] Severtsov, 1850 | [UK] Levant Sparrowhawk | [FR] Epervier a pieds courts | [DE] Kurzfang-Sperber | [ES] Gavilan griego | [NL] Balkansperwer


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Accipiter brevipes EU sw


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 males are particularly striking at close range, with their plain blue faces and red eyes and the juveniles have distinctive lines of dark spots down their underparts. The females are basically similar to a female Sparrowhawk but with a neat dark stripe down the middle of the chin. In flight, their gregarious behaviour is usually enough to identify them but you’ll also notice that the males in the flock are conspicuously pale below with contrastingly dark wingtips. Even if plumage details aren’t visible, lone birds can be identified by their shapes, since, compared to Common Sparrowhawks, their wings are longer and more pointed, almost falcon-like. Immatures are brown above, streaked with rufous on the crown and with rufous or buff edges to the feathers, and white mottlings at their bases. The tail is brown tipped with buff and four to seven darker bars, broad on the central feathers and narrow on the outer. Below it is white – streaked on the throat with black, spotted on the breast and barred with dark brown on the belly, thighs, under-wing coverts and axillaries. From below the tail is grey with four dark brown bars, narrowest on outer feathers. The eyes are brown, the cere and feet yellow.

Listen to the sound of Levant Sparrowhawk

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/ACCIPITRIFORMES/Accipitridae/sounds/Levant Sparrowhawk.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 62 cm wingspan max.: 76 cm
size min.: 32 cm size max.: 37 cm
incubation min.: 30 days incubation max.: 35 days
fledging min.: 40 days fledging max.: 35 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


Eurasia : Southwest


It occurs in lowland forests near wetlands, nesting in tall trees. It feeds on unretrieved quarry, small mammals, waterbirds, frogs and snakes, hunting over swamps, wet meadows and, in Estonia, over extensively managed agricultural land. Breeds in deciduous woodland especially in hilly areas. Occurs more widely on passage when flocks may be seen overhead.


The Levant Sparrow-hawk is sexually mature in its first year and will breed with traces of immature plumage still showing. The nests are built in belts of trees along river valleys, usually in broad-leaved trees, and fifteen to thirty feet from the ground. They are small loose structures of sticks about one foot across and a few inches deep, with the cup lined with green leaves. A new one is built each year.
In May three to five eggs are laid at one-day intervals. They are pale bluish green, with small markings of grey and brown, and after incubation appear greyish white. The female incubates, beginning with the first egg. The period is probably between 30 and 35 days.
The young hatch in early June, and leave the nest in August, after a fledging period of 40-45 days. Whilst in the nest they are fed by both parents. They remain in the vicinity of the nest for a couple of weeks after fledging, and then migrate southwards. Between two and five young per nest are successfully reared, the numbers fluctuating each season.

Feeding habits

The adult Levant Sparrow-hawks feed mostly on small birds and small ground mammals, plus occasionally bats. The immatures eat many insects. Adults also occasionally eat insects.
Prey is seized either from the ground or in flight.

Video Levant Sparrowhawk


copyright: youtube


This species has an extremely 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). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not 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.
Accipiter brevipes is a patchily distributed summer visitor to south-eastern Europe,
which constitutes >75% of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population
is small (as few as 3,200 pairs), but was stable between 1970-1990. Although the
species remained stable or increased across the vast majority of its European range
during 1990-2000, there were declines in the sizeable population in Russia, and the
species underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall.
3 600-5 800 breeding pairs in Europe. Most common in Greece 1000-1200, the Ukraine 1000 and Russia 1500-3000. Smaller populations exist in other south-eastern European countries. Turkish population 10-500. This bird inhabits south-eastern Europe, from the Balkan Peninsula to the Ural mountains. Outside Europe it is breeding as far east as western Kazakhstan and Iran. In the European Union its distribution is limited to Greece, where its population is estimated at 1000-1200 breeding pairs, its total European population being around 12000 pairs (EBCC Atlas of European Breeding Birds). Being totally migratory, this species is wintering in north-eastern Africa, but its exact wintering quarters are not well known.
Levant Sparrowhawk status Least Concern


Migratory. Most birds leave areas in Sept and return in Apr or early May; believed to winter in sub-Saharan Africa, but winter quarters on Africa not well known. Migrants concentrate around Bosporus, E Black Sea and especially Israel, where there are peaks during very short periods in second half of Apr and of Sept, and large groups can form; crossing point between Asia and Africa probably at Gulf of Suez. Some nocturnal migration recorded, with birds using flapping flight.

Distribution map

Levant Sparrowhawk distribution range map


Abstract: The Levant sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes) is a t..[more]..
Source: ISRAEL JOURNAL OF ZOOLOGY, Vol. 46, 2000, pp. 207-214

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Author(s): WILLIAM S. CLARK and Reuven Yosef
Abstract: We banded 218 migrating Levant Sparrowhawks (Acdpi..[more]..
Source: j. Raptor Res.3 1 (4):317-320

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