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Accipiter rufiventris (Rufous-chested sparrowhawk, Red-breasted sparrowhawk) 

Rooiborssperwer [Afrikaans]; Ukhetshana (also applied to Little sparrowhawk) [Xhosa]; Kakodi (generic term for sparrowhawks, goshawks, kestrels and falcons) [Kwangali]; Phakoana (generic term for small bird-of-prey?) [South Sotho]; Rukodzi (generic name for a small raptor such as falcon or sparrowhawk) [Shona]; Phakalane, Segôôtsane (generic terms for some of the smaller raptors) [Tswana]; Afrikaanse sperwer [Dutch]; Épervier menu [French]; Rotbauchsperber [German]; Gavião-ruivo [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 rufiventris (Rufous-chested sparrowhawk, Red-breasted sparrowhawk)  Accipiter rufiventris (Rufous-chested sparrowhawk, Red-breasted sparrowhawk) 

Rufous-chested sparrowhawk with prey item, Clovelly Golf Course, Cape Town, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

For information about this species, see www.birdforum.net/opus/Rufous-chested_Sparrowhawk

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in isolated patches of sub-Saharan Africa, from Ethiopia, eastern DRC and Kenya to Uganda, eastern Zambia to South Africa. In southern Africa, it is scarce to fairly common in Zimbabwe's eastern highlands and adjacent Mozambique, and mesic areas of South Africa. It generally prefers afromontane forest or stands of alien trees in otherwise open habitats, such as fynbos or grassland; it is also adapted to living in suburbia, such as in Cape Town.

Distribution of Rufous-chested 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.  

Movements and migrations

Resident and largely sedentary, although it may disperse from its territory after breeding.


It almost exclusively eats small birds, typically hunting by soaring across the sky then stooping and pursuing its prey. It also can hunt from a concealed position in the tree canopy. In fynbos, it often uses stealthy tactics, flying very close to the ground under cover, before ambushing its prey.  The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, performing a display in which the pair fly synchronously in an undulating flight.
  • The nest is mainly built by the female in about 22-59 days, consisting of a saucer-shaped platform of sticks which is sometimes lined with lichen, bark, moss or pine needles. It is typically placed in the canopy of an alien tree, such as Eucalyptus or poplar (Populus), or it may alternatively use an indigenous tree such as a yellowwood (Podocarpus).
  • Egg-laying season is from is from August-December, peaking from September-October.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated almost solely by the female, while the male feeds her regularly at the nest.
  • The chicks are brooded and cared for by the female for the first 25 days of their lives, while the male delivers plucked and decapitated birds for her and the young to feed on. The female then starts to help the male provision food for the chicks, who leave the nest at about 29-40 days old, becoming fully independent roughly 17-47 days later.


Not threatened, in fact its range has increased due to the introduction of alien trees, which it uses for nesting in otherwise open areas,


  • 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.