Mega rarity: first record of the Levant Sparrowhawk for Malta

September 30, 2016 3:35 pm

The raptor migration in the past days provided a mega rarity for Malta as a Levant Sparrowhawk (Sparvier tal-Lvant, Accipiter brevipes) was seen at Buskett last Tuesday 27 September 2016, late in the afternoon.

This is the first record of this species for the Maltese Islands. There are a few other records of this species in hunters’ stuffed bird collections in Malta and Gozo, but these are most probably of imported carcasses from hunting in Eastern Europe.


The rare Levant Sparrowhawk was spotted at Buskett earlier this week (Photo by BirdLife Malta ornithologist Ray Galea)

The bird, a juvenile, was observed and photographed at close range with all features for this species positively identifying it as a juvenile female Levant Sparrowhawk. It was observed by experienced field ornithologists and birders from Birdlife Malta, who every year study the autumn raptor migration over Buskett. Monitoring autumn raptor migration at Buskett has been taking place for the last 50 years on an annual basis by Birdlife Malta field ornithologists and birdwatchers.

The Levant Sparrowhawk is a small bird of prey which nests in trees, with the female larger than the male. The breeding distribution of this bird is south-east Europe, from the Balkans to the West Black Sea Coast, Moldova, Ukraine and South Russia north of the Black Sea into north-west Kazakhstan. Its occurrence in central Europe is very rare with only a few accidental records. It winters in Africa. Other birds of prey seen on that day included: Honey Buzzards, Marsh Harriers,  Eurasian Sparrowhawks, Hobbies, a Merlin, Lesser Kestrels, and Common Kestrels.

The strong northeasterly winds on that day could be the cause of this rare bird coming to Malta instead of taking its normal eastern migration route.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.