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Accipiter ovampensis (Ovambo sparrowhawk) 

Ovambosperwer [Afrikaans]; Kakodi (generic term for sparrowhawks, goshawks, kestrels and falcons) [Kwangali]; Rukodzi (generic name for a small raptor such as falcon or sparrowhawk) [Shona]; Phakalane, Segôôtsane (generic terms for some of the smaller raptors) [Tswana]; Ovambo-sperwer [Dutch]; Épervier de l'Ovampo [French]; Ovambosperber [German]; Gavião do Ovambo [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 ovampensis (Ovambo sparrowhawk)   

Ovambo sparrowhawk. [photo Neil Gray ©]


Distribution and habitat

Occurs in patches of sub-Saharan Africa; in southern Africa it is rare to locally common in the northern half of Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip), Botswana, Zimbabwe and north-eastern South Africa. It generally favours tall woodland with patches of bare ground, such as riverine and broad-leaved woodland, with miombo (Brachystegia), Mahobohobo (Uapaca kirkiana) or Zambezi teak (Baikiaea plurijuga).

Distribution of Ovambo 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

It has been recorded as prey of Accipiter melanoleucus (Black sparrowhawk).

Movements and migrations

Mainly sedentary, although there is evidence to suggest that it might make local movements, as its occurrence is seasonal in some areas.


It exclusively eats birds, hunting in a manner that more closely resembles falcons than it does other sparrowhawks and goshawks. It usually hunts by flying quite high above the ground, looking for prey, then stooping to chase the animal near the ground for up to about 100-200 metres. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, with the female doing most of the construction of the nest, which consists of a stick platform lined with bark chips and sometimes green leaves. It is typically placed in the canopy of a tree, such as the following:
    • alien trees
      • Eucalyptus
      • Populus (poplars)
    • indigenous trees
      • Brachystegia glaucescens (Mountain-acacia)
      • Kirkia acuminata (White kirkia)
      • Julbernadia globiflora (Munondo)
      • Uapaca kirkiana (Mahobohobo)
      • Acacia nigrescens (Knob thorn)
      • Celtis africana (White-stinkwood)
  • Egg-laying season is from August-November, peaking from August-September.
  • It lays 1-5 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 37-39 days, while the male feeds her at the nest 2-3 times per day.
  • The chicks are fed with food provided by the male for the first 18 days, after which the female starts to help him hunt. They leave the nest at about 33-39 days become fully independent roughly a month later.


Not threatened, in fact its range has increased due to the introduction of alien trees, which it uses for nesting. It has also benefited from the abundance of birds associated with agriculture to feed on.


  • 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.