The Northern Goshawk is the largest of the three forest hawks that make up the genus Accipiter. It ranges from 19-27" in length , with an average wingspan of 40- 47". The female is slightly larger than the male. The body is broad and robust with short powerful wings . A pronounced mass of white feathers above each eye may offer protection to the eyes as it dives into thick brush to ambush prey . A long wedgeshaped tail acts as a rudder, giving the Goshawk remarkable agility in making sudden sharp turns through the trees . Some biologists have nicknamed the Goshawk the “sports car of the bird world” when describing its maneuverability in the air . Even more impressive is the tenacity of this grand bird in pursuit of its prey. As its prey seeks cover in a dense thicket, the Goshawk often continues the chase on foot .
- While many species of hawks are readily seen soaring and circling high above the landscape, the Northern Goshawk maintains an almost secretive presence in North American forests . The Goshawk is a woodland hawk, and if you are lucky, you can see this noble predator zipping through dense forest and along the forests edge in a spectacular pursuit of prey .
Click on the language to view common names.
Common Names in Dutch:
Common Names in English:
Eurasian Goshawk, Northern Goshawk, Northern Goshawk (Eurasian), Goshawk
Common Names in French:
autour des palombes
Common Names in German:
Common Names in Hebrew:
Common Names in Italian:
Common Names in Japanese:
Common Names in Russian:
Teterevyatnik, Тетеревятник, Ястреб-тетеревятник
Common Names in Spanish:
Azor, Azor Común, Gavil, Gavilán azor, GavilÃ¡n azor
Common Names in Swedish:
Adult : Head : Crown: black Ear Tufts: orange red Face : Eye Ring: white Postocular Stripe : wedge-shaped black Body: Back: blue gray Upperparts: white with gray mottling Tail: Length : long Shape : rounded or wedge-shaped.
: Red eye · Blackish head
with bold white supercilium
· Gray back and upperwings · Pale
gray chin, throat
breast, underwing coverts and belly finely vermiculate · White
undertail coverts · Tail dark blue-gray above and pale below,
barred with dark bands
· Flight feathers dark blue-gray above
and pale below, barred with black
Immature : Yellow eye · Brown head with bold white supercilium · Brown back and upperwings · White belly boldly streaked with black to undertail coverts · Tail, brown above and pale below, marked by jagged bars edged narrowly in white
About 19 to 27 inches long, with a wingspan of 40 to 47 inches. Adults weigh about 32 ounces .
Northern goshawks typically nest
in moderately dense montane
that are broken
, meadows, or openings. “Nests are
usually concealed in dense, but sometimes small groves of large pines,
firs, or aspens” (Gaines 1988). The goshawk prefers middle
, dense conifer forests but nests in most forest
are found throughout the geographic range
elevations (Squires and Reynolds 1997). Goshawks selected
sites that had higher canopy
, greater tree
and greater density of trees than on neighboring control plots (Squires
and Ruggiero 1996). These correlations
are consistent with the hypothesis
that goshawk morphology and behavior are adapted for hunting in moderately
dense, mature forests, and that prey
availability (as determined
by the occurrence of favorable vegetation structure where prey are
present above a low threshold) is more important than prey density
selection (Beier and Drennan, 1997). Nesting habitat of
the northern goshawk includes mature, mixed hardwood-hemlock stands
of birch, beech, maple, and eastern hemlock within the eastern portion
of its range. In the central portion, it nests primarily in ponderosa
pine. In the western portion of its range, the goshawk nests in Douglas-fir,
various pines, and aspen. The forest stands containing nests are
often small, approximately 10 to 100 acres
and territories may contain
one to five alternative nest site areas (Squires and Reynolds 1997).
Goshawks select productive old-growth forests, with greater than 60 percent of all adult goshawk relocations occurring in this cover type. Non-forest, clear cut , and alpine cover types were least used by the northern goshawk and were avoided relative to their availability. The median breeding season minimum convex polygon use areas of adult goshawks was about 10,000 acres. Goshawks predominantly use gentle slopes at elevations below 800 feet. A total of 24 percent of the relocations of northern goshawks occurred in riparian habitat zones, and nearly 20 percent of all relocations occurred with the beach fringe habitat extending 1,000 feet inland from the ocean shoreline (Iverson, et al. 1996).
In saturated populations, the species composition and structure of vegetation in the nest areas depends on the availability within a given territory. Thus, although the goshawk may prefer certain nest habitat structures, habitat characteristics in the nest areas vary from territory to territory, depending on the availability. Although the species is considered a habitat generalist at a large spatial scale, they tend to nest in a relatively narrow range of vegetation structural condition. Nests are typically in mature to old growth forests composed primarily of large trees with high, 60 to 90 percent, canopy closure, near the bottom of moderate hill slopes, with sparse ground cover. These closed stands may reduce predation and along with the north slopes, provide relatively cool environments (Squires and Reynolds 1997).
In California, the species may casually occur in winter along the coast, throughout the foothills, and in the northern deserts where it may be found in pinyon-juniper and low-elevation riparian habitats (Zeiner, et al. 1990). In general, for cover purposes, it uses mature and old-growth stands of conifer and deciduous habitats. Dense, mature conifer and deciduous forest, interspersed with meadows, other openings, and riparian areas also are required. Nesting habitat of the species includes north-facing slopes near water (Zeiner, et al. 1990).
Vegetation: tropical lowland evergreen forest, pine forests, tropical lowland evergreen forest, pine-oak forests • Minimum Elevation: 2,100 meters • Maximum Elevation: 3,400 meters • Foraging Strata: Canopy • Center of Abundance: Upper montaine: mountains, upper range, above 3,600 m. • Sensitivity to Disturbance: High
List of Habitats
- 1 Forest
- 1.1 Forest - Boreal
- 1.4 Forest - Temperate
- 4 Grassland
- 4.1 Grassland - Tundra
- 14 Artificial/Terrestrial
- 14.5 Artificial/Terrestrial - Urban Areas [more info]
The northern goshawk hunts in wooded areas. Its uses snags
for observation and prey-plucking perches
. Typical prey
of the northern goshawk are of a wide diversity
and the species is
considered an opportunist. It feeds
mostly on birds, from robin to
grouse in size. Small mammals, of squirrel and rabbit size, are often
taken. The goshawk rarely eats carrion
and insects ( Schnell 1958).
Prey items of the goshawk include: tree squirrels, hares, grouse,
corvids, woodpeckers and large passerines
, with reptiles
making up a more occasional portion of the accipiter’s diet
and Reynolds 1997). In general, they have been documented to take
a variety of small to small/medium mammals and birds from small passerines
to ducks and pheasants (Bent 1937). Based on biomass
, the snowshoe
hare and grouse account for a very large proportion of the diet in
region of Washington; this population has a narrower
niche than some populations but demonstrates the opportunistic
of the species relative to prey selection (Watson et al.
are caught in the air
, on the ground
, or in vegetation, using a fast,
searching flight, or rapid dash
from a perch. The goshawk is fierce,
aggressive and very persistent
in pursuing prey and is capable of
tremendous short bursts of speed
when chasing a prey animal (Brown
and Amadon 1968).
Similar to the other accipiter species, the goshawk is a bird of the woodland, either deciduous or coniferous and sometimes mixed with cultivation. It is not averse to crossing clearings or entering them to hunt and will forage relatively large distances . Frequently, they migrate away from nesting or resident areas in response to food availability (Brown and Amadon 1968). Beier and Drennan (1997) found that several habitat structure components were more influential in foraging site selection than prey density. They found that goshawks select sites with higher canopy closure and greater tree density. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that goshawk behavior and morphology are adapted for hunting in moderately dense mature forests where prey are most vulnerable (Squires and Reynolds 1997).
In California, mature and old-growth habitat are used for foraging, whereas open habitats such as meadows and seedling and sapling stands are avoided (Austin 1993). It was also found that nest sites and surrounding home range areas had greater basal area, canopy cover, and trees in large diameter classes than did random plots, however, some populations readily forage in open habitats (Hargis, et al. 1994).]
The nesting sites of the goshawk vary in different parts of the country.
In the northwest, it commonly nests
douglas fir, ponderosa
or lodgepole pine of varying densities. They also nest in cottonwoods
and other deciduous trees
1978). The nest
is single to multistoried, depending on the forest
In eastern deciduous forests, goshawks prefer to nest in large forested
areas containing more mature timber than generally present in the
landscape. In northern California, smaller nest stands (less than
) containing one to two nests were occasionally occupied,
whereas the occupancy of large stands (greater than 20 hectares)
was more consistent and thus the occupancy rate of nest stands was
positively correlated with stand size (Squires and Reynolds 1997).
The goshawk usually nests on north slopes , near water, in the densest parts of stands, but close to openings (Jackman and Scott 1975). In eastern Oregon, the nest usually is located in the fork of a large, horizontal limb close to the trunk , at the bottom of the live canopy 6-24 m (19-82 ft ) above ground . The species uses large, live trees with a mean dbh of 27.4 cm (11 in) (Reynolds, et al. 1982). It uses old nests, and maintains alternate sites. Within the southern California forests, they usually nest in large live trees, frequently on north slopes near water, in the densest part of the stand, but also near openings (USFS pers. comm. 1999). Multistoried forest canopy predominates at nest sites; however, there is typically no shrub layer. The nest site and nest tree tend to be comprised of the locally dominant tree species (Hall 1993). Nest tree height and diameter support the body size predictions about nesting habitat for accipiter hawks. As a result of this, it is difficult to differentiate between Cooper’s hawk and northern goshawk nest sites for most site variables. Many of the commonly used forest stand characteristics such as basal areas and total tree density may not be adequate for predicting suitable accipiter nesting habitat (Siders and Kennedy 1996).
The nest is a large, flat, untidy structure placed usually in a crotch , but sometimes out on a limb (Harrison 1978). It is usually at a height of 30 to 60 feet in a variety of trees, and the species may actually prefer hardwood in some areas (Shuster 1980). At least in some areas the nests are lined with hard pieces of bark and also with green sprigs of conifers. One to five, usually three eggs are laid. The clutch size is affected by the abundance of favorable prey . The latest dates for egg-laying are the early part of June. Incubation is done by both male and female for approximately 41 days. The young become independent at approximately 70 days (Brown and Amadon 1968; Bond 1942.).
These accipiters are thought to be monogamous with a 1:1 sex ratio prior to fledgling . Mate retention is high for both males and females and it is thought that the pair remain together as long as both are alive, at least in areas where the species is non-migratory (Brown and Amadon 1968; Squires and Reynolds 1997). In most cases, one clutch is produced per year (Squires and Reynolds 1997).
Dispersal : Dispersal typically occurs 65 to 95 days after hatching (Squires and Reynolds 1997). Fledglings remain within their respective nest stands for most of the post-fledgling period and movements away from the nest tree are initially restricted by the size of the nest stand itself (Shipman and Bechard 1995). Nestlings from banding studies relocated as breeders nesting 16.1 to 24.2 kilometers from their natal site (Squires and Reynolds 1997).
Some breeding populations appear to be either migratory or exhibit transient movements. A group of northern goshawks moved approximately 65 to 185 kilometers during the winter season and then returned to the previous year’s nesting area in the spring (Squires and Ruggiero 1995).
Northern Goshawks are monogamous and are thought to mate for life. When courting or displaying over a nesting territory, Goshawks may perform impressive aerial displays or perch in the nesting area while vocalizing. They will fiercely defend their nests from intruders. Goshawks produce two to four young each season. Once nestlings reach 35 to 42 days old, they move to branches near the nest. They promptly begin practice flights from branch to branch and may initiate a flight on their own when they are 35 to 46 days old. Fledglings often take part in “play” behavior which is believed to give them practice in hunting and defense skills. Parents may continue to feed their young until they are about 70 days old.
Breeding Habitat: Woodland Clutch Size: 2-4 Length of Incubation: 36-38 days Days to Fledge : 35-42 Number of Broods: 1
Goshawks from many populations will remain in their nesting areas throughout their lives, although those that breed in the north and northwestern parts of North America are migratory. Goshawks that breed in New Mexico may relocate to lower elevations during the cold winter months when prey is limited.
The goshawk is a diurnally active
species (Zeiner, et al.
Young have been reported bathing (Bond 1942, Brown and Amadon 1968).
Survival: Estimated mortality rates based on banding recoveries are 66 percent for year one; 33 percent for year two; 19 percent for year three; 19 percent for year four and 11 percent for the following years (Squires and Reynolds 1997).
Socio-Spatial Behavior: Home range appears to be the same as territory. The northern goshawk is extremely defensive of the nest area. It is vociferous; it will strike intruders, including humans. The territory is estimated to be 1.6 to 39 sq. km (0.6 to 15 sq mi ) (Brown and Amadon 1968), and average 2.1 sq. km. (0.8 sq. mi.) in Wyoming (Craighead and Craighead 1956). Distances of 2.9 to 5.6 km (1.8 to 3.5 mi) have been reported between nesting pairs. They have an indefinite nesting area, varying in size from six to 15 miles often containing several nests among which they may choose (Brown and Amadon 1968). In California, the maximum distance between alternative nest stands is 1.8 kilometers and approximately 85% of the alternate nest stands are less than 0.7 kilometers apart. Depending on the continuity of forest cover , nests of adjacent pairs occur at regular intervals (Squires and Reynolds 1997). Distances between pairs have been reported to be 1.8 to 3.5 miles (Zeiner, et al. 1990).
- Whittaker & Margulis,1978
- C. Linnaeus, 1758
- (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Grobben, 1908
- (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Bateson, 1885
- Cuvier, 1812
- Jawed Vertebrates
- Goodrich, 1930
- Linnaeus, 1758
- Gauthier, 1986
- (C. Linnaeus, 1758)
- Pycraft, 1900
- Seebohm, 1890
- Sharpe, 1874
- (C. Linnaeus, 1758)
- Infraorder: Falconides () - Sharpe, 1874
- Suborder: Accipitres () - (C. Linnaeus, 1758)
- Order: Accipitriformes () - Sharpe, 1874
- Superorder: Falconimorphae () - Seebohm, 1890
- Cohort: Neognathae () - Pycraft, 1900
- Infraclass: Aves () - (C. Linnaeus, 1758)
- Subclass: Avialae () - Gauthier, 1986
- Class: Aves () - Linnaeus, 1758
- Superclass: Tetrapoda () - Goodrich, 1930
- Infraphylum: Gnathostomata () - auct. - Jawed Vertebrates
- Subphylum: Vertebrata () - Cuvier, 1812 - Vertebrates
- Phylum: Chordata () - Bateson, 1885 - Chordates
- Infrakingdom: Chordonia () - (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Branch: Deuterostomia () - Grobben, 1908
- Subkingdom: Bilateria () - (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Kingdom: Animalia () - C. Linnaeus, 1758 - animals
Accipiter gentilis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Status: Accepted Name
Last scrutiny: 24-Jun-1996
Members of the genus Accipiter
ZipcodeZoo has pages for 112 species and subspecies in this genus. Here are just 100 of them:
(Pied Goshawk) · (Pied Goshawk) · (Pied Goshawk) · (Shikra) · (Little Banded Goshawk) · (Shikra) · (Shikra) · (Shikra) · (Bicolored Hawk) · (Bicolored Hawk (Bicolored)) · (Bicolored Hawk (Chilean)) · (Bicolored Hawk) · (Bicolored Hawk (Spotted)) · (New Britain Sparrowhawk) · (Levant Sparrowhawk) · A. buergersi (Chestnut-Shouldered Goshawk) · (Nicobar Sparrowhawk) · (Nicobar Sparrowhawk) · (Chestnut-Flanked Sparrowhawk) · A. chilensis (Chilean Hawk) · A. chionogaster (White-Breasted Hawk) · A. cirrhocephalus (Australian Collared Sparrow Hawk) · A. cirrhocephalus cirrhocephalus (Australian Collared Sparrow Hawk) · (Collared Sparrowhawk) · (Australian Collared Sparrow Hawk) · (Semicollared Hawk) · A. cooperi (Big Blue Darter) · (Cooper's Hawk) · (Rufous-Necked Sparrowhawk) · (Rufous-Necked Sparrowhawk) · A. erythronemius (Rufous-Thighed Hawk) · A. erythronemius erythronemius (Rufous-Thighed Hawk) · (Red-Thighed Sparrowhawk) · (Red-Thighed Sparrow Hawk) · (Brown Goshawk) · (Brown Goshawk) · (Brown Goshawk) · (Christmas Island Nighthawk) · A. francesiae (Frances' Sparrow Hawk) · A. francesiae francesiae (Frances's Sparrowhawk) · (Anjouan Island Sparrow Hawk) · (Frances' Sparrow Hawk) · (Anjouan Island Sparrow Hawk) · (Northern Goshawk (Eurasian)) · A. gentilis apache (Apache Northern Goshawk) · (Northern Goshawk (American)) · A. gentilis gallinarum (Northern Goshawk) · (Northern Goshawk) · (Northern Goshawk) · (Sulawesi Goshawk) · (Japanese Sparrowhawk) · (Japanese Lesser Sparrow Hawk) · (Gundlach's Hawk) · A. gundlachii (Gundlach's Hawk) · (Gundlach's Hawk) · (New Caledonia Goshawk) · (Moluccan Goshawk) · (Henst's Goshawk) · (Variable Goshawk) · (Variable Goshawk) · (Variable Goshawk) · (Imitator Sparrowhawk) · (Slaty-Mantled Goshawk) · (Madagascar Sparrowhawk) · (Black-Mantled Goshawk) · (Black Sparrowhawk) · (Great Sparrow Hawk) · (Meyer's Goshawk) · (Little Sparrowhawk) · A. minullus minullus (Little Sparrowhawk) · (Small Sparrowhawk) · (Eurasian Sparrowhawk) · A. nisus dementjevi (Eurasian Sparrowhawk) · (Eurasian Sparrowhawk) · (Eurasian Sparrowhawk) · (Gray Goshawk) · A. novaehollandiae novaehollandiae (Grey Goshawk) · (Ovampo Sparrowhawk) · (Gray-Headed Goshawk) · (Gray-Bellied Hawk) · (New Britain Goshawk) · A. radiatus (Doria's Goshawk) · (Vinous-Breasted Sparrowhawk) · (Vinous-Breasted Sparrow Hawk) · (Fiji Goshawk) · (Rufous-Breasted Sparrowhawk) · (Rufous-Breasted Sparrow Hawk) · (Chinese Sparrowhawk) · (Sharp-Shinned Hawk (Caribbean)) · (Sharp-Shinned Hawk (White-Breasted)) · (Sharp-Shinned Hawk (Rufous-Thighed)) · (Sharp-Shinned Hawk) · (Sharp-Shinned Hawk) · (Sharp-Shinned Hawk) · (Sharp-Shinned Hawk) · (Sharp-Shinned Hawk (Plain-Breasted)) · (Tiny Hawk) · (Tiny Hawk) · (African Goshawk) · (African Goshawk)
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Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 12, 2007:
- Biologiezentrum der Oberoesterreichischen Landesmuseen, Biologiezentrum Linz
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility, North West Territories and Nunavut Bird Checklist, Canada
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility, Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada. Birds
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility, Royal British Columbia Museum
- Marine Science Institute, UCSB, Paleobiology Database
- New Brunswick Museum, NBM birds
- Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara Musem of Natural History
- UK National Biodiversity Network, Scottish Borders Biological Records Centre - SWT Scottish Borders Local Wildlife Site Survey data 1996-2000 - species information
- University of Gdansk, Bird Migration Research Station, Ringing Data from the Bird Migration Research Station, University of Gdańsk
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
- , Bird specimens
- Biodiversity Heritage Library NamebankID: 8576
- Catalogue of Life Accepted Name Code: ITS-175301
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility Taxonkey: 1920621
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN): 175300
- IUCN ID: 188304
- Natural Heritage Network Species Identifier: ABNKC12060
- Zipcode Zoo Species Identifier: 178011