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The Northen Goshawk ( , from OE. góshafoc 'goose-hawk'), Accipiter gentilis, is a medium-large bird of prey in the family Accipitridae, which also includes other diurnal raptors, such as eagles, buzzards and harrier.

It is a widespread species that inhabits the temperate parts of the northern hemispheremarker. In Europe and North America, where there is only one goshawk, it is often referred to (officially and unofficially, respectively) as simply the "Goshawk". It is mainly resident, but birds from colder regions migrate south for the winter.

This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758 under its current scientific name.

The Northern Goshawk appears on the flag of the Azores. The archipelago of the Azores, Portugalmarker, takes its name from the Portuguese language word for goshawk, (açor), because the explorers who discovered the archipelago thought the birds of prey they saw there were goshawks; later it was found that these birds were kite or Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo rothschildi).


Juvenile in flight
The Northern Goshawk is the largest member of the genus Accipiter. It is a raptor with short, broad wings and a long tail, both adaptations to manoeuvring through trees in the forests it lives and nests in. Across most of the species's range, it is blue-grey above and barred grey or white below, but Asian subspecies in particular range from nearly white overall to nearly black above. Adults always have a white eye stripe. Males are long with a wingspan. The female is much larger, long with a wingspan. Males of the smaller races can weigh as little as , whereas females of the larger races can weigh as much as . The juvenile is brown above and barred brown below. The flight is a characteristic "five slow flaps – straight glide".

In Eurasia, the male is sometimes confused with a female Sparrowhawk, but is larger, much bulkier and has relatively longer wings. In North America, juveniles are sometimes confused with the Cooper's Hawk. While goshawks average larger, there is overlap in size between small male goshawks and large female Cooper's Hawks, so plumage and structural characteristics need be examined. In North America, the Sharp-shinned Hawk is markedly smaller.

Food and hunting

This species hunts birds and mammals in woodland, relying on its speed of flight through the dense forest as it flies from a perch or hedge-hops to catch its prey unaware. They are usually opportunistic predators, as are most birds of prey. The most important prey species are rodents and birds, especially the Ruffed Grouse in North America, pigeons and doves, and passerines (mostly starlings and crows). Waterfowl up to the size of the Mallard are sometimes preyed on. Prey is often smaller than the hunting hawk, but these birds will also rarely kill much larger animals, up to the size of snowshoe hares and jack rabbits.


In the spring breeding season, Northern Goshawks perform a spectacular "rollercoaster" display, and this is the best time to see this secretive forest bird. At this time, the surprisingly gull-like call of this bird is sometimes heard. Adults return to their nesting territories by March or April and begin laying eggs in April or May. These territories almost always include tracts of large, mature trees that the parents will nest in. The clutch size is usually 2 to 4, but anywhere from 1 to 5 eggs may be laid. The eggs average and weigh about . The incubation period can range from 28 to 38 days. The young leave the nest after about 35 days and start trying to fly another 10 days later. The young may remain in their parents' territory for up to a year of age. Adults defend their territories fiercely from everything, including passing humans, so even the eggs have few predators. Birds of any age may be attacked, rarely, by Bubo owls and large Buteo hawks, but these often cede to or are themselves killed by the aggressive Goshawk.


In United Kingdommarker and Irelandmarker, the Northern Goshawk became extirpated in the 19th century because of specimen collectors and persecution by gamekeepers, but in recent years it has come back by immigration from Europe, escaped falconry birds , and deliberate releases . The Goshawk is now found in considerable numbers in Kielder Forestmarker, Northumberlandmarker, which is the largest forest in Britain. The main threat to Northern Goshawks internationally today is the clearing of forest habitat on which both they and their prey depend.

John James Audubon illustrates the Northern Goshawk in Birds of America, Second Edition (published, London 1827-38) as Plate 141 where an adult and juvenile are accompanied by a Stanley Hawk (now Cooper's Hawk). The compound image (made up from more than one original) was engraved and colored by Robert Havell's Londonmarker workshops. The original watercolor by Audubon was purchased by the New York History Society where it remains. William Lewin illustrates the Northern Goshawk under the title "Goss Hawk" as Plate 9 in volume 1 of his Birds of Great Britain and their Eggs published in London, 1789.

In falconry

Northern Goshawks are much used in falconry.

In falconry, "Finnish goshawks" (goshawks from Finlandmarker, or descended from goshawks brought from Finland) are prized because they are bigger and stronger than western European native goshawks.


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