Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus


Justification of Red List Category
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.

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 364,000-571,000 pairs, which equates to 728,000-1,150,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International in prep.). Europe forms approximately 36% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 2,020,000-3,190,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. It is placed in the band 2,000,000 to 3,200,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats. In Europe, the population has increased since the 1980s, but remained stable over the last three generations (15.45 years [Bird et al. 2020]) (BirdLife International in prep.).


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).  In Madeira and the Canary Islands, forest fires destroy breeding areas and reduce prey availability (Gouveia et al. 2017). 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).

Conservation actions

Conservation actions underway 
Accipiter nisus is listed on CITES Appendix II, CMS Appendix II and Raptors MoU Category 3. Sixteen European countries currently have breeding population monitoring schemes in place for this species (representing 37% of the countries in its European breeding range) (Derlink et al. 2018).


Text account compilers
Haskell, L.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Accipiter nisus. Downloaded from on 05/02/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 05/02/2023.