Science

Levant Sparrowhawks

Learning more about a little-studied raptor

The Levant Sparrowhawk is a small accipiter about the size of Sharp-shinned Hawk that breeds in south-eastern Europe and southwestern Asia, in regions near the Black and Caspian seas. The species is a complete migrant that overwinters in the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa where it feeds on migratory locusts and other super abundant  “outbreak” species.  Unlike most accipiters the Levant Sparrowkawk has decidedly pointed wings and relatively short feet like a falcon, and migrants while soaring in large flocks like a Buteo.  This little-studied enigmatic species vanishes into Africa each autumn and has yet to be studied on its wintering grounds. Its global population is estimated to be less than 100,000 individuals. 

Work to date

Our studies of Levant Sparrowhawks began in Armenia in the summer of 2011 when Armenian graduate student Siranush Tumanyan began examining the bird on its breeding grounds.  Studies of the bird’s movement ecology were initiated when six nestlings were tagged with satellite tracking units in June 2013.  Although three of tagged individuals failed to reach their wintering grounds, two disappeared at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula after encountering an outbreak of migratory locusts, and one over-wintered in Tanzania, south of what was believed to be the traditional wintering area for the species. 

The Future

Hawk Mountain intends to place additional units on this species in 2015 in an effort to better understand factors limiting its numbers.

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