AMS405/35 Collared Sparrowhawk Click to enlarge image
Scanned in 2005 for the Birds in the Backyard website Image: Jack Purnell
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
  • Size Range
    30 cm to 40 cm

Collared Sparrowhawks rely on trees or tall shrubs for cover to ambush their prey, darting out to catch small birds. At other times they sit quietly and are very easily overlooked.


The Collared Sparrowhawk is a medium-sized, finely built raptor (bird of prey) with wide staring bright yellow eyes. The upperparts and side of the head are slate- grey, with a complete chestnut half-collar. The underparts are finely barred pale rufous on white and the rounded wings are rather short. The bill is black, with a pale yellow cere (fleshy bill base). The Collared Sparrowhawk has long fine yellow legs and very long toes, especially the middle toe. The tail is long and generally squared at the tip. The sexes are similar in appearance but males are smaller than females. The Collared Sparrowhawk is also called the Chickenhawk.


The Collared Sparrowhawk is found in woodlands and forests of tropical and temperate Australia.


Collared Sparrowhawks are widely distributed across mainland Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. Although widespread, they are generally uncommon.


Collared Sparrowhawks are generally resident but may be partly migratory, however their movements are poorly known.

Feeding and diet

Collared Sparrowhawks mainly eat small birds caught in flight. They hunt during the day, and also at dawn and dusk to catch birds at their roost sites. Their very long middle toe is used to clutch their prey, before it is killed, plucked and eaten.


A rapid, almost trilled 'keek, keek, keek' and a soft mewing 'wit wit'. They are silent when hunting.

Breeding behaviours

The Collared Sparrowhawk builds a rather flat nest of twigs and sticks in the fork of a tree, usually high among the foliage. The nest is lined with fresh leaves. Mainly the female incubates, with the male helping at times, though he provides her with food. The female broods the young for the first week or so and then shelters them in very hot or cold weather. The young are fed with small pieces of food, bill to bill. Sparrowhawks are very calm at their nest, unlike the Brown Goshawk which is very aggressive.

  • Breeding season: September to February
  • Clutch size: Three to four
  • Incubation: 35 days
  • Time in nest: 28 day

Economic impacts

Collared Sparrowhawks will live near human settlements and in cleared areas if there are suitable trees and shrubs available for hunting and nesting. They eat introduced birds like House Sparrows and Common Starlings. They may even follow prey into houses when hunting.


  • Marchant, S. and Higgins, P.J. (eds) 1993. Handbook of Australian New Zealand And Antartic Birds Vol. 2: (Raptors To Lapwings). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  • Olsen, P., Crome, F. and Olsen, J. 1993. The Birds of Prey and Ground Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, and the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.
  • Simpson, K and Day, N. 1999. Field guide to the birds of Australia, 6th Edition. Penguin Books, Australia.
  • Hollands, D. 2003, Eagles Hawks and Falcons of Australia. Bloomings Books. Melbourne.