Sparrowhawk, Accipter nissus, in long grass, Cheshire, UK

Population trends and threats

Sparrowhawks are short-lived compared with other birds of prey.

Mortality

The average lifespan for a sparrowhawk is 2.7 years, and very few live longer than seven years. About one third of the adults die each year, and around two-thirds of the fledged young die in their first year, the most common cause being starvation.

Food availability and the quality of parental care are critical factors influencing a sparrowhawk's survival. Lack of food also limits the production of young. Only just more than half of sparrowhawk nests produce young in any breeding season.

The rate of death among young sparrowhawks peaks in August and September, but adult mortality is at its highest in March and April when food supply is at its lowest.

Prolonged hard winter weather can cause a significant drop in the subsequent breeding population.

Dead sparrowhawk