|Just after it had caught something in the late afternoon, Cedara Farm, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.|
The rufous-breasted sparrowhawk (Accipiter rufiventris), also known as the rufous-chested sparrowhawk and as the red-breasted sparrowhawk, is a species of bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. It is found in Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
A small raptor, with a height of about 30 cm and wingspan of 72 cm, the rufous-breasted sparrowhawk is named for its distinctive rufous-coloured underparts, which can be seen both perching and in flight. It is dark grey slate-brown above, including the head, with a black bill and eyes that are yellow at all ages.
In flight, the bold bars on both its wings and tail are clearly visible. Juvenile plumage ranges from the rufous-color of adults to more white, but all have feathers with dark shaft streaks on their underside. It can be differentiated from the similar Ovambo sparrowhawk (Accipiter ovampensis) by its lack of a dark patch behind the eyes or white eyebrow.
The rufous-breasted sparrowhawk is in the family Accipitridae, and is a part of the genus Accipiter, which contains sparrowhawks, goshawks, and other small woodland hawks. Within this genus it forms a superspecies with the Eurasian sparrowhawk (A. nisus) and possibly the Madagascan sparrowhawk (A. madagascariensis) (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Recent DNA barcoding research found it to be potentially conspecific with A. nisus, but did not support a superspecies with A. madagascariensis.
Habitat and Distribution
The rufous-breasted sparrowhawk has the most restricted range of any southern African accipiter, though it has expanded with the introduction of non-native pine species. It occupies montane forest habitats from the Cape of Good Hope to the Ethiopian highlands, though locally its range is quite small and divided between forest patches.
The rufous-breasted sparrowhawk shares many behavioral qualities with other African and European accipiters, but virtually nothing is known of its diet and nestling development.
Its call is a series of series of high, fast “kew” notes, with the male being higher-pitched than the female. A more drawn out “kieee-u” is made by the female to request food from the nearby male, and is adopted by the young as a begging call whenever adults are near.
Undergoes courtship by flying very high above the nesting area and calling, and mating often occurs after the male presents the female with an offer of food. Nests are platforms built from small sticks 6-18m above the ground, and are built by snapping off sticks in flight with their talons or by breaking them with their beak. A new nest is usually built each year, though often very close to the previous nesting site. Two to four eggs are laid in September and October, and are white with red-brown blotches that coalesce in a cap. Incubation is undergone primarily by the female, while the male fetches food, which is given to her in a nearby tree.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Accipiter rufiventris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- Kemp, Alan (1998). Birds of Prey of Africa and its Islands. Australia: New Holland Australia. pp. 160–161. ISBN 1859741002.
- Steyn, Peter (1982). Birds of Prey of Southern Africa. Cape Town, South Africa: David Phillip. pp. 157–159. ISBN 0709923821.
- Breman, Floris C.; Jordaens, Kurt; Sonet, Gontran; Nagy, Zoltán T.; Houdt, Jeroen Van; Louette, Michel (2012-09-23). "DNA barcoding and evolutionary relationships in Accipiter Brisson, 1760 (Aves, Falconiformes: Accipitridae) with a focus on African and Eurasian representatives". Journal of Ornithology. 154 (1): 265–287. doi:10.1007/s10336-012-0892-5. ISSN 2193-7192.
- Simmons, Robert (1986-03-01). "Food Provisioning, Nestling Growth and Experimental Manipulation of Brood Size in the African Redbreasted Sparrowhawk Accipiter rufiventris". Ornis Scandinavica. 17 (1): 31–40. doi:10.2307/3676750. JSTOR 3676750.
- Brown M (2007) Raptors eating bats. Gabar 18: 34–35.
- Ferguson-Lees, James and David A. Christie (2001) Raptors of the World. Christopher Helm, London. pp. 578–581. ISBN 0-7136-8026-1
- Images from African Bird Club
- (Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk = ) Red-breasted Sparrowhawk - Species text in The Atlas of Southern African Birds