The Besra, Accipiter virgatus, is a bird of prey in the family Accipitridae which also includes many other diurnal raptors such as eagles, buzzards and harriers.

Range / Breeding

The Besra is a widespread resident breeder in dense forests throughout south Asia from India to south China and Indonesia.

It nests in trees, building a new nest each year. It lays 2-5 eggs.

In winter, Besra will emerge into more open woodland including savannah and cultivation.


This bird is a medium-sized raptor (29-36cm) with short broad wings and a long tail, both adaptations to fast manoeuvring.

The normal flight of this species is a characteristic “flap – flap – glide”, and the barred underwings are a distinction from Shikra, A. badius.

This species is like a darker version of the widespread Shikra, but all plumages have a dark vertical throat stripe.

The adult male Besra has dark blue-grey upperparts, and is white, barred reddish below.

The larger female is browner above than the male.

The juvenile is dark brown above and white, barred with brown below. It has a barred tail.

Diet / Feeding

Its hunting technique is similar to other small hawks such as Sparrowhawk, A. nisus, or Sharp-shinned Hawk, A. striatus, relying on surprise as it flies from a hidden perch or flicks over a bush to catch its prey unaware.

The prey is lizards, dragonflies, and small birds and mammals.

Photo of author

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