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Accipiter minullus (Little sparrowhawk) 

Kleinsperwer [Afrikaans]; Ukhetshana (also applied to Rufous-chested sparrowhawk) [Xhosa]; uMqwayini [Zulu]; Kakodi (generic term for sparrowhawks, goshawks, kestrels and falcons) [Kwangali]; Rukodzi (generic name for a small raptor such as falcon or sparrowhawk) [Shona]; Oostafrikaanse dwergsperwer [Dutch]; Épervier minule [French]; Zwergsperber [German]; Gavião-pequeno [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Falconiformes > Family: Accipitridae > Genus: Accipiter

Accipiter minullus (Little sparrowhawk) Accipiter minullus (Little sparrowhawk) Accipiter minullus (Little sparrowhawk)

Little sparrowhawk, Modimolle, Limpopo, South Africa: adult (left, middle) and juvenile (right). [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya south through Tanzania, southern DRC, Angola and Zambia to South Africa. Here it is scarce to uncommon in the northern half of Namibia. northern and south-eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. It generally favours tall, dense woodland, forest edges and stands of alien trees in otherwise open habitat (such as fynbos and grassland); it may also move into suburban areas.

Distribution of Little sparrowhawk in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

Adults have been recorded as prey of Melierax gabar (Gabar goshawk), while nestlings are sometimes eaten by Kaupifalco monogrammicus (Lizard buzzard).

Movements and migrations

Resident and sedentary, although it may disperse after the breeding season.


It almost exclusively eats small birds, doing most of its hunting from a perch concealed by dense foliage, swiftly ambushing and killing its prey. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


Little sparrowhawk female brooding young, Modimolle, Limpopo, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, with the male performing a display in which he perches with his body held horizontally, before swaying his head from side to side.
  • The nest is mainly built by the female, consisting of a small stick platform thinly lined with green leaves. It is typically placed in the main fork of a tree (especially alien species), although it may also use the old nest of a Shikra or Gabar goshawk instead of building its own. It has been recorded to use the following trees for nesting:
    • alien trees
      • Eucalyptus
      • Populus (poplars)
      • Jacaranda acutifolia (Jacaranda)
      • Salix babylonica (Weeping willow)
    • indigenous trees
      • Acacia
        • A. nigrescens (Knob thorn)
        • A. ataxacantha (Flame thorn)
        • A. robusta (River thorn)
      • Faidherbia albida (Ana tree)
      • Kirkia acumenata (White kirkia)
      • Sclerocarya birrea (Marula)
      • Commiphora (corkwood)
      • Ekebergia (ash)
      • Brachystegia glaucescens (Mountain-acacia)
      • Euphorbia
  • Egg-laying season is from September-December, peaking during October.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 31-32 days, although the female tends to do 75-80% of the incubation; the male helps by feeding her regularly at the nest.
  • The chicks are brooded by the female for most of the nestling period, while the male gives her food to give to them. Any other birds who wander in the vicinity of the nest are vigorously chased away, especially if the intruder as another raptor. The chicks leave the nest at about 25-27 days old, dispersing from their parents' territory up to a year later.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.