Scientific Name:

Accipiter gularis

Population Status:

Least Concern

Body Length:

7.8-11.8 in (20-30cm)

Wingspan:

18-22in (46-58cm)

Weight:

2.9-6.8oz (85-193g)

What makes a raptor a raptor?

Research Resources

Did you know?

  • Azure-winged Magpies often choose to build their nests near a nesting pair of Japanese Sparrowhawks, to take advantage of the defensive behavior of the sparrowhawks!
  • Scientists estimate that a pair of Japanese Sparrowhawks would need to catch close to 350 small birds during breeding season, in order to successfully raise their young!
  • It wasn't until that 1980's that Japanese Sparrowhawks took to breeding regularly in residential areas in Japan. Though scientists aren't exactly sure why they decided to move closer to humans, but it is likely because there are good nesting spots and lots of songbirds to feed on.

Though The Peregrine Fund doesn't work directly with Japanese Sparrowhawks, our efforts in scientific research, habitat conservation, education, and community development help conserve raptors on a global scale. We also supply literature to researchers from our avian research library, which helps scientists around the world gather and share important information on raptor conservation.

Distributed throughout much of South-east Asia, the Japanese Sparrowhawk is found from China to Japan, from Korea to Siberia, and in Mongolia, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines and even far east Russia. In 2002, it was recorded on the Bawean Island, in the Java Sea, which could be an important stop-over point for this species during migration.

The Japanese Sparrowhawk is well-adapted to living in a wide variety of habitats from deciduous forests to urban parks. It can be seen soaring along forest edges or hunting or breeding in a variety of semi-open and agricultural landscapes. It is not a shy bird and may also choose to nest and hunt very close to or even within areas occupied by people. However, the species does tend to avoid closed-canopy forest and plantation monocultures - an area where only one type of crop is grown.

It can be found from sea level to 2,000 masl.

Male and female Japanese Sparrowhawks are very strongly sexually dimorphic - meaning they vary quite a bit in size (the females are larger, as is the case with most raptor species) and they also vary in coloration. The males are quite distinctive with contrasting dark barring beneath the wings with a lower belly that varies in color from cream to red/brown. Their upperparts are gray, with just a tinge of blue. They have reddish eyes. Females, on the other hand, have yellow eyes. Their upperparts are also a dark gray and the belly is cream-colored with brown barring. The juveniles are overall dark brown, with dark barring on the chest and belly.

When not soaring, the Japanese Sparrowhawk can be hard to see, as it often perches in tall trees among the dense foliage.

The Japanese Sparrowhawk is a migratory species and as many as 10,000 individuals may pass through the East Asian Continental Flyway each year!

The Japanese Sparrowhawk uses a few different vocalizations, one common call is a series of quick, short, shrill notes, often used for food begging. It also has territorial calls, warning calls and vocalizations used to communicate to its mate.

Thankfully, the Japanese Sparrowhawk is considered a species of Least Concern - this means that, for now, its populations are stable and scientists believe they will remain so far into the future. The fact that it has a large distribution range also helps! However, this doesn't mean that the Japanese Sparrowhawk doesn't face important threats, such as loss of roosting trees - mainly due to change in land-use through some of its range. Sadly, this species is also threatened by humans who capture it for the bird trade.

Another factor which might affect the breeding of the Japanese Sparrowhawk is the expansion of the Long-billed Crow's range. The Long-billed Crow and the Japanese Sparrowhawk often nest in the same types of trees. Sadly, in part of its range, the Long-billed Crows are outcompeting the sparrowhawks for nesting sites.

The Japanese Sparrowhawk is a skilled hunter and has been documented feeding on small mammals, insects, bats - which it hunts mostly around dusk - and birds, which it traps on the wing. In fact, there is a very long list of bird species that have fallen prey to this striking raptor, including Tree Sparrow, Great Tit, Black-naped Oriole, Spotted Dove, domestic chick, Barn Swallow, Scaly-breasted Munia, White-headed Munia, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Common Myna, Zebra Dove, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Hodgson's Hawk-cuckoo, Drongo Cuckoo, Blue-winged Pitta, and Crow-billed Drongo.

Scientists observing the Japanese Sparrowhawk during migration have noticed that some of these birds will actually stop in strategic points at sea to hunt from drilling rigs, where they catch migrating swallows who are often tired from their long journey.

The Japanese Sparrowhawk has also been observed taking baby birds directly from the nest! But, this behavior is believed to be rare.

The Japanese Sparrowhawk nests in a variety of habitats from mixed beech and pine forests, to forest patches, agricultural fields and even residential areas, often very close to human homes. One pair even nested right next to an elementary school! This species tends to nest high up in trees.

At the start of breeding season, the male and female will engage in several courtship displays. These might include soaring together or a short "dance" which involves the bobbing of the tail and "shivering" of the wings. When the time is right, the female will lay between 2 to 5 eggs, which need to be incubated for around 29 days. After the chicks hatch, they will spend up to four weeks in the nest. During this time they will grow big and strong and develop their flight feathers and will begin to exercise their muscles.

After fledging, or flying for the first time, young Japanese Sparrowhawks will remain with their parents for another three weeks as they learn to hunt and to survive on their own.

The World Center for Birds of Prey offers fun ways to learn about birds of prey. The visitor center offers interactive displays, tours, interesting videos and a children's room with activities from coloring sheets to quizzes to costumes and a touch table - all available for the curious mind. We also have several different birds of prey on display year-around. Knowledgeable staff and volunteers are on hand to answer any questions you may have about Japanese Sparrowhawks or any other birds of prey.


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