Skip Navigation

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

A skilful woodland predator adapted for chasing prey through the trees and along hedgerows, the sparrowhawk's short broad wings and long tail give it great manoeuvrability.

Common name: sparrowhawk

Scientific name: Accipiter nisus

Family: Accipitridae (hawks and eagles)


Head: both the male and female sparrowhawk have strikingly bright yellow eyes. The top of the male's head is grey and the face is an orange-brown colour and the females has a dark grey head on top with a pale face. 

Wings: the upper wings of the male sparrowhawk are grey and the female's are a darker greyish brown with a wingspan of 62cm.

Body: the sparrowhawk is a small bird and can hunt effectively in small spaces, although the female is up to 25% larger than the male. The male's front is streaked with orange brown and the back is a bluish grey, whereas the female is grey streaked all over. Both have long talons at the end of long yellow legs.

Where to spot

The sparrowhawk can be see all year round in most part of the UK except for the Scottish Highlands and Shetland. It it fairly widespread, and can be spotted in dense woodland and forests as well as cities and suburban areas. 


It feeds on small birds, such as thrushes and pigeons and sometimes also bats.


In the spring, birds display to each other to find a mate and males perform a 'rollercoaster flight' to impress the females. The sparrowhawk first breeds at one year old, and raises four to five young between March and June. It builds its nest in woodland, a small flat construction made close to the tree trunk. 


  • Sparrowhawks can quickly sweep their wings back for instant fast gliding
  • During winter birds can be found in more open areas
  • Typical lifespan is four years.