46 - 69cm
0.9 - 1.3m
0.3 - 2.2kg
5 - 10 yrs
The northern goshawk is a medium-large raptor in the family Accipitridae. It is the only member of the Accipiter genus to be found in both Eurasia and North America, helping to make it one of the most widespread of all raptor species. In the Middle Ages, owning a goshawk was seen as a sign of status amongst the gentry, hence the species name “gentilis”.
There is some variation in colour, with the upperparts being either a bluish or brownish shade of grey with the underparts being white with heavy dark barring. More northerly or older individuals tend to be the palest overall. It has a long tail and broad yet short wings to aid with manoeuvrability. The eyes begin yellow, but typically become orange or red with age.
What Does it Look Like?
What Does it Sound Like?
Most calls are related to the breeding season. For example, the male produces a high-pitched “kew kew kew” when bringing back food to the nest, whereas females have a “kek kek kek” alarm-call used for identifying intruders. They are also known to make snapping or croaking sounds with varying intent, but usually as a kind of contact call.
Studies suggest that small birds account for up to 75% of the prey species consumed. This is partly thanks to the goshawk’s high aerial manoeuvrability, which allows it to easily catch other birds in flight. It seems to prefer corvids (e.g. crows, jays and magpies) but also grouse and pheasants. However, it may also take mammals such as squirrels and hares.
What Does it Eat?
Where Does it Nest?
They select a tall tree and site the nest in a forked branch, but on rare occasions may take an existing nest built by a buzzard or crow. Anywhere between 1 – 6 eggs can be laid (typically three) which are then incubated primarily by the female for 4-5 weeks. The eldest chicks are known to be particularly dominant, meaning only 2 or 3 will survive to fledging.
They are found throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere, including much of North America and Europe. It is also resident across Russia and parts of Asia such as Japan and China (particularly around the Himalayas). It resides in boreal forests, open grassland and tundra, and agricultural farmland (where they are seen hunting for game birds.)
Where Does it Live?
What is its Status?
The global population is estimated to number around 1.5 million, but it isn’t clear in which direction it is trending; it is thought to be stable in North America, whereas Europe has suffered declines. Identified threats include disturbances caused by wind power development as well as industrial pesticide usage.
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