Levant Sparrowhawk

(Accipiter brevipes)

The Levant Sparrowhawk is a small raptor that occurs in a small breeding range in south eastern Europe, where it frequents deciduous forests and river valleys.

Due to its secretive nature and restricted distribution range, it’s very rare to observe a Levant Sparrowhawk in Europe in the wild. 

The best way to see Levant Sparrowhawks is to observe them on migration through Israel, where thousands of these elegant hawks can be seen every year on their passage south.

Photo of Levant Sparrowhawk in flight
Levant Sparrowhawk in flight

In order to conserve the European population of the Levant Sparrowhawk, it’s essential to protect its habitat of deciduous forests, which also benefits many other animals and plants.

Levant Sparrowhawk facts

Due to its secretive nature and restricted distribution range, it’s very rare to observe a Levant Sparrowhawk in Europe in the wild. 

Levant Sparrowhawk size

The Levant Sparrowhawk is smaller than a Common Wood Pigeon, but larger than a Starling or Thrush. It is very similar in size to its close relative, the European Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus).

  • Wingspan: 69-75 cm
  • Length: 31-36 cm
  • Weight: 180-290 g (female), 140-270 g (male)

While the Levant Sparrowhawk is similar in size to the Eurasian Sparrowhawk, it has slightly different proportions, due a shorter tail than the latter. Also, adult male Levant Sparrowhawks are lighter colored and have fewer markings on the underside, compared to adult male Eurasian Sparrowhawks.


Overall, the Levant Sparrowhawk looks like a small European hawk with short wings and a longish tail. It is secretive and mostly hunts in forests, which makes it hard to observe.

Photo of adult male Levant Sparrowhawk perched on a rock
Adult male Levant Sparrowhawk perched on a rock

Sexual dimorphism

Similar to most other bird of prey species in Europe, female Levant Sparrowhawks are larger than males, but there is a big size overlap between males and females.

Scientific name and taxonomy

The scientific name of the Levant Sparrowhawk is Accipiter brevipes. No subspecies are known, but the Levant Sparrowhawk forms a superspecies with the Nicobar Sparrowhawk (Accipiter butleri) and the Shikra Hawk (Accipiter badius), neither of which are European raptors.

Levant Sparrowhawk distribution

In Europe the Levant Sparrowhawk is found in south eastern Europe, with the largest population found in the European part of Russia, followed by Greece and Turkey. Its range extends eastwards from there to the Ukraine and Iran.

Levant Sparrowhawk habitat

The Levant Sparrowhawk prefers deciduous forests in lowland areas as its habitat. It is most commonly found in river valleys, which provide the highest amounts of suitable food. Sometimes it is also found in old orchards. 

Levant Sparrowhawk population size

The total European population of the Levant Sparrowhawk is currently estimated to be between 3,200 and 7,700 breeding pairs by BirdLife International. However, this could well be an underestimate, due the fact that it is one of the most secretive raptors in Europe, and is rarely observed by humans.

Large numbers of Levant Sparrowhawks are regularly observed on migration through Israel, and the highest count recorded on passage was over 60,000 individuals, suggesting the number of breeding pairs in Europe may be higher than thought. 

Levant Sparrowhawk behavior

Unlike the Eurasian Sparrowhawk, the Levant Sparrowhawk takes most of its prey on, or near, the ground, and thus has a higher proportion of ground based animal species in its diet than the Eurasian Sparrowhawk.

Feeding and diet

The main food source of the Levant Sparrowhawk are small birds, lizards, and rodents. While birds form a large part of its diet, it takes in a lot more mammals and reptiles than the Common Eurasian Sparrowhawk, which feeds almost exclusively on birds. In addition to vertebrates, the Levant Sparrowhawk also feeds on large insects, which it also feeds to its young. 


The Levant Sparrowhawk builds a stick nest in deciduous trees at medium height. A new nest is built every year, and the female lays 3-5 eggs which are incubated for up to 30 days. After hatching, the young hawks stay in the nest for another 30 days, and continue to be fed even after they leave the nest.


The Levant Sparrowhawk is a strictly migratory raptor that spends the winter in Africa south of the Sahara. This behavior is different from the Eurasian Sparrowhawk, which is a partial migrant. The Levant Sparrowhawk often migrates in flocks, and large numbers of individuals can often be observed on passage at migration hotspots in Israel. 

Levant Sparrowhawk conservation status

While it’s difficult to get an accurate picture of the population decline of Levant Sparrowhawks, due to their secretive nature, it seems clear that overall numbers of Levant Sparrowhawks observed on migratory routes in Israel have been declining over the past decades.

However, due to the fact that the overall population size is still relatively large, BirdLife International has classified the conservation status of the Levant Sparrowhawk as of “Least Concern”.


The biggest threat to the Levant Sparrowhawk is habitat destruction, followed by illegal shooting during migration. In some areas, increasing predation by the Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) is also thought to be a contributing factor to the decline of Levant Sparrowhawk population.

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