Black Sparrowhawk | Accipiter melanoleucus

The Black Sparrowhawk is known by a few more names in English, such as: Black Goshawk, Black & White Sparrowhawk and the Great Sparrowhawk. This raptor is the size of a guinea fowl and will hunt and eat prey up to it's size, but it favours doves. Please see more information and photo's below.

Roberts Information On The Black Sparrowhawk

The Black Sparrowhawk is a South African bird that belongs to the Accipitridae bird family group which includes birds such as Raptors, Old Vultures, Osprey.

The description for the Black Sparrowhawk (Latin name Accipiter melanoleucus) can be found in the 7th Edition of the Roberts Birds of Southern Africa. The Accipiter melanoleucus can be quickly identified by its unique Roberts identification number of 158 and the detailed description of this bird is on page 520. You will find a picture of the Black Sparrowhawk on page 433.

NOTE: The reference for the information following is "Roberts Birds of Southern Africa", 7th Edition*. This edition contained a number of taxonomic changes as well as changes to English names used traditionally and in earlier editions of most bird books in South Africa. The following paragraph notes such changes if any.

There have been no changes in the common name between the Roberts 6th and Roberts 7th Edition. There have been no changes in the Latin name for the Black Sparrowhawk between the Roberts 6th and Roberts 7th Edition.

The Black Sparrowhawk is known in Afrikaans as Swartsperwer.

The Black Sparrowhawk has a height of 58 cms and weighs around 540 gms. The head is coloured black while the bill is coloured black. The Accipiter melanoleucus has a white coloured throat, yellow legs and a black, grey coloured back. The eyes are red.

Take note of the bird's main distinguishing features such as colour, size and leg length relative to the body size of the bird. Colours of a bird's body parts can be helpful. Be aware what may appear brown to one person is described in Roberts Birds using some other word ... for example brown, black. See colours used in Roberts.

Head is black.

Eyes are red.

Bill is black.

Legs are yellow.

Throat is white.

Back is black, grey.

Photo's Of The Black Sparrowhawk & Differentiating Between Male, Female & Juveniles

Please click the images below to make them larger:

Male Adult  
Female Adult  
Non Breeding Plumage  

Black Sparrowhawk Feeding Habits ...

This bird forages for food on the ground.

The Accipiter melanoleucus attacks its prey aerially and feeds on wing or takes the prey to a secluded venue where it is killed, torn into small pieces and eaten.

This bird hunts for small reptiles such as lizards, geckos and bush snakes. The Black Sparrowhawk strikes poisonous snakes on the head with one fatal blow which kills the snake instantly. There have been cases were this bird has been killed by a snake while hunting. Some birds have been blinded by Cobra venom.

The Accipiter melanoleucus attacks smaller birds in flight and uses its sharp claws to break the bird's neck. Some of the birds are attacked in their nests while others are killed on the ground. The Black Sparrowhawk eats the eggs of its victim.

The diet includes small mammals such as rabbits, field mice and other rodents. Rodents are usually taken from the ground and killed using the sharp claws. The Black Sparrowhawk uses its hard bill to tear up the flesh.

Black Sparrowhawk Breeding, Habitat and Nesting Habits ...

The Black Sparrowhawk is a monogamous bird which means that the bird finds and breeds with one partner for the rest of its life. The bird lays between 1 to 4 eggs and they are coloured green.

The nest is built high up in the tree canopy and is protected from predators by branches and the dense green foliage.

The Black Sparrowhawk is mainly found in light and densely wooded forests, where there are Mopane trees.

The bird is mainly found in the Savanna grasslands where it breeds and feeds.

The bird is at home in riverine forests and close to water bodies such as lakes, dams and streams.

This bird is very common in most of the Southern African Forests.

The bird is an urban dweller as well, being at home in parks, gardens and in old vacated buildings.

Seen in Flocks, Singles or Pairs Normally ...

The Black Sparrowhawk is mainly seen singly or in pairs in the wild.