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Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus

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 is extremely large, and hence does not 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.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 403,000-582,000 pairs, which equates to 805,000-1,160,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms approximately 36% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 2,240,000-3,220,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. It is placed in the band 2,200,000 to 3,300,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats. In Europe, trends since 1980 have been stable, based on provisional data for 21 countries from the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (EBCC/RSPB/BirdLife/Statistics Netherlands; P. Vorisek in litt. 2008). BirdLife International (2015) estimated the European population size as stable, whilst populations within the EU27 were estimated to be decreasing by less than 25% in 21.6 years (three generations).

Behaviour The species is migratory in the north of its range, with these birds wintering in southern Europe, southern Asia and less commonly in Africa (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Further south, birds tend to be resident or dispersive (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Migrants move south between July and November, returning between March and June (Snow and Perrins 1998). Birds are generally solitary, except when nesting, and tend to migrate singly although large concentrations do form at narrow sea crossings (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Habitat It mainly inhabits forest, although preferring this to be interspersed with open areas (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Diet Small birds make up the vast majority of its diet (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Breeding site The nest is built in the lower crown of trees, on a fork or branch (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Management information Population trends are generally stable or increasing in areas where persecution has been controlled (del Hoyo et al. 1994).

Widespread persecution, especially from gamekeepers, in the 20th century caused large numbers of the birds to be killed (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Sharp declines in Europe in the 1950s-1960s were driven by the use of harmful organochlorine pesticides, which causes direct mortality of adults as well as reduced breeding success. The species is still trapped in its thousands annually in Turkey, where it is used by falconers, but habitat alteration is thought to be the major contemporary threat (del Hoyo et al. 1994). It is also highly vulnerable to the impacts of potential wind energy developments (Strix 2012). Ingestion of prey containing lead shot is an additional threat (Fisher et al. 2006).

BirdLife International. 2015. European Red List of Birds. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Ferguson-Lees, J. and Christie, D.A. 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Nielsen, J. T.; Moller, A. P. 2006. Effects of food abundance, density and climate change on reproduction in the sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. Oecologia 149: 505-518.

Snow, D.W. and Perrins, C.M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

STRIX. 2012. Developing and testing the methodology for assessing and mapping the sensitivity of migratory birds to wind energy development. BirdLife International, Cambridge.

Further web sources of information
Detailed regional assessment and species account from the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International, 2015)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Harding, M., Khwaja, N. & Ashpole, J

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Accipiter nisus. Downloaded from on 28/11/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/11/2015.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size 2200000-3300000 mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 23,100,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment