New Britain Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brachyurus)

New Britain Sparrowhawk

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Accipiter brachyurus | [authority] Ramsay, 1879 | [UK] New Britain Sparrowhawk | [FR] Epervier de Nouvelle-Bretagne | [DE] Dreifarben-Sperber | [ES] Gavilancito de Nueva Bretana | [NL] Nieuw-Britse Sperwer


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Accipiter brachyurus AU New Britain


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

Lowland populations: Extensive logging, conversion to oil-palm plantations. In the period 1975-96, 485 km2 or 1.2% of New Britain’s land area was cleared of forest (Filer 1997). During the same period, 11,459 km2 (28% of the land area) had been partially or selectively logged. Mountain populations suffer no immediate threat.

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 27 cm size max.: 34 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 0   eggs min.: 0  
      eggs max.: 0  


Australasia : New Britain. Accipiter brachyurus is endemic to New Britain and New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. There are only a handful of historic or recent records on New Britain. It has recently been discovered on New Ireland where it was the commonest (although not very common) raptor in the montane forests. Its true distribution is clouded by identification problems with the other Accipter species on New Britain, but it is clearly a localised species occurring at low population-densities. Endemic to New Britain and New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. It is not yet known whether it occurs in northern New Ireland.


This is a very poorly-known forest species. Although there are some lowland records, most records are from montane forest, including records at 1,200-1,800 m on New Ireland


No data

Feeding habits

Not known, body shape and claws suggest small birds in forest.


This species is judged to have very small subpopulations on two islands and to be declining in the lowlands through forest clearance and degradation, leading to classification as Vulnerable. However, this is based on poor data and further fieldwork may reveal that it is more common in montane forest than currently thought and may therefore require downlisting to Near Threatened.
Lowland populations are threatened by the extensive logging of lowland forests, often with conversion to oil-palm plantations, across its range. On New Britain, lowland forest clearance for conversion to oil palm plantations has been intense in recent decades and the island accounts for approximately half of Papua New Guinea’s timber exports.
New Britain Sparrowhawk status Vulnerable


Probably non-migratory

Distribution map

New Britain Sparrowhawk distribution range map

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