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Black Sparrowhawk
Accipiter melanoleucus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Black Goshawk, Black-and-white Goshawk, Great Goshawk, Great Sparrowhawk.

more photos
Accipiter melanoleucus
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Distribution: Afrotropical. Central and southern Africa from SENEGAMBIA and eastern SUDAN south to ANGOLA and SOUTH AFRICA. more....

Subspecies: 2 races. A. m. melanoleucus: Eastern SUDAN and northern and western ETHIOPIA, GABON and ZAIRE east to KENYA and south to ANGOLA and SOUTH AFRICA; PEMBA I. and ZANZIBAR; A. m. temminckii: SENEGAMBIA east to GABON, CONGO, and CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC.

Taxonomy: May form a superspecies with A. gentilis, A. henstii, and A. meyerianus.

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant, with juveniles dispersing from breeding areas (Bildstein 2006). There is some vagrancy, probably representing post-breeding dispersal. Hartley (1998) regarded this species as sedentary in Zimbabwe. more....

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in forests of all types, especially those with tall trees, including small patches of montane and riparian woodland and exotic tree plantations, including eucalyptus and pines. Normally perches high in trees and is readily overlooked because it is often hidden in the canopy. Often occurs in pairs. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Preys mostly on birds, which it captures after low, fast flights from a perch. Because of the extreme sexual size dimorphism in this species, there are sexual differences in prey selection. Males typically hunt dove-sized birds, and the much larger females take gamebird species, including francolins and even guineafowl. more....

Breeding: The large stick nest is placed high in a tree, frequently a eucalytpus or other exotic species. Unlike most accipiters, this species often re-uses the same nest in successive years, adding more material annually until some nests are as large as those of eagles. Both members of the pair build or refurbish the nest, but only the female incubates. She is fed by the male during the incubation period, which lasts 37-38 days, and during the early nestling period, which is about 45 days. Clutch size is usually 3-4 eggs for experienced pairs. Most broods fledge during October and November, when many smaller birds are breeding and producing young. more....

Conservation: Widespread, although not particularly common in most areas. Populations have expanded greatly in southern Africa as the planting of exotic trees (e.g., eucalyptus) has allowed this species to colonize new areas. Categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Important References: 
Allan, D.G. 1997. Black Sparrowhawk. Pp. 224-225 in J.A. Harrison et al.
  (eds.), The atlas of South African birds. Volume 1: Non-passerines. BirdLife
  South Africa and Avian Demography Unit, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Brown, L.H., and B.E. Brown. 1979. The behaviour of the Black Sparrowhawk
  Accipiter melanoleucus. Ardea 67:77-95.
Brown, L.J., E.K. Urban, and K. Newman. 1982. The birds of Africa. Vol. 1.
  Academic Press, London.
Curtis, O. 1998. Natural history of the Black Sparrowhawk on the Cape
  Peninsula, South Africa. Journal of African Raptor Biology 13:39-41.
Ginn, P.J., W.G. McIlleron, and P.le S. Milstein. 1989. The complete book
  of southern African birds. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.
Hartley, R.R., and J. Hough. 2004. Breeding, ecology and human impacts on
  the Black Sparrowhawk in Zimbabwe - 1971-1980. Honeyguide 50:125-142.
Kemp, A.C. 1994. Black Sparrowhawk. P. 162 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott,
  and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World
  vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Louette, M., and P. Herroelen. 2007. Comparative biology of the
  forest-inhabiting hawks Accipiter spp. in the Democratic
  Republic of Congo. Ostrich 78:21-28.
Steyn, P. 1982. Birds of prey of southern Africa: their identification and
  life histories. David Phillip, Cape Town, South Africa.

Current Research: Sightings of color-ringed Black Sparrowhawks in South Africa should be reported to Ann Koeslag at koeslag@discoverymail.za or 072-357-0909.

Sites of Interest:
Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology
Conducts a natural history study with additional investigations of anthropogenic changes to habitat.
Black Sparrowhawk photos.

Curtis, Odette
Stephenson, Alan

Last modified: 5/15/2014

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Black Sparrowhawk Accipiter melanoleucus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 13 Jun. 2021

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