Life history events of the Eurasian sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus in a changing climate


  • Aleksi Lehikoinen,

  • Pertti Saurola,

  • Patrik Byholm,

  • Andreas Lindén,

  • Jari Valkama

A. Lehikoinen (, P. Saurola and J. Valkama, Finnish Museum of Natural History, P.O. Box 17, FI-00014 Univ. of Helsinki, Finland. – P. Byholm and A. Lindén, Dept of Biosciences, P.O. Box 65, FI-00014 Univ. of Helsinki, Finland.


Current climate change has been found to advance spring arrival and breeding dates of birds, but the effects on autumn migration and possible responses in the distribution of wintering individuals are poorly known. To thoroughly understand the consequences of climate change for animal life histories and populations, exploration of whole annual cycles are needed. We studied timing of migration (years 1979–2007), breeding phenology (1979–2007) and breeding success (1973–2007) of Eurasian sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus in Finland. We also investigated whether the migration distance of Finnish sparrowhawks has changed since the 1960s, using ringing recovery records. Since the late 1970s Finnish sparrowhawks have advanced their spring arrival, breeding and autumn departure considerably, but the migration distance has not changed. Early migrants, who are the ones with the highest reproductive success, show the strongest advance in the timing of spring migration. In autumn, advanced departure concerns young sparrowhawks. Late autumn migrants, who are mainly adults, have not advanced their migration significantly. The sparrowhawk is the most common bird of prey and the main predator of most passerines in Finland. Therefore, changes in sparrowhawk migration phenology may affect the migration behaviour of many prey species. The breeding success of sparrowhawks has increased significantly over the study period. This is however more likely caused by other factors than climate change, such as reduced exposure to organochlorine pollutants.