It is a widespread species throughout the temperate and subtropical parts of the Old World. It is mainly resident, but birds from colder regions of north Europe and Asia migrate south for the winter, as far as North Africa and India.
This species nests in trees, building a new nest each year. It hunts birds in woodland or cultivated areas, relying on surprise as it flies from a perch or hedge-hops to catch its prey unaware.
This bird is a small raptor with short broad wings and a long tail, both adaptations to manoeuvring through trees. The male is slate-grey above and barred reddish below. The much larger female is barred grey below. She can be confused with the similarly sized male Goshawk, but lacks the bulk of that species. The juvenile is brown above and barred brown below. The flight is a characteristic "flap – flap – glide".