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Northern Goshawk

Accipiter gentilis ORDER: ACCIPITRIFORMES FAMILY: ACCIPITRIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A powerful raptor of northern forests, the Northern Goshawk is the largest North American accipiter. It maneuvers through dense woods, taking prey as small as squirrels and as large as grouse, crows, and snowshoe hare.

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Yard Map Birds Eye View

At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
20.9–25.2 in
53–64 cm
Wingspan
40.6–46.1 in
103–117 cm
Weight
22.3–48.1 oz
631–1364 g
Other Names
  • Goshawk
  • Autour des palombes (French)
  • Gavilán azor (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Northern Goshawk is well known for its fierce defense of its nest. It commonly attacks people and other animals that approach the nest too closely.
  • The Northern Goshawk can be very persistent in pursuing prey. One goshawk was seen pursuing a snowshoe hare for 45 to 60 minutes along a hedgerow until finally the hare ran into a clearing and was seized. A goshawk may also chase poultry into buildings.
  • Attila the Hun wore an image of a Northern Goshawk on his helmet.
  • The Northern Goshawk is found across northern America and Eurasia. Most of the Eurasian races have much more dark barring on the chest than the American form, but about half of all Siberian goshawks are nearly white.
  • The name "goshawk" comes from the Old English words gos, meaning goose, and hafoc meaning hawk. It is pronounced as if the words are still separate, without any "sh" sound.

Habitat


Forest

Various forest types, especially mature forest.

Food


Birds

Large birds, squirrels, rabbits, and hares.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–5 eggs
Egg Description
Bluish white.
Condition at Hatching
Covered in white down and able to move around in nest.
Nest Description

A large bowl of thin sticks lined with bark and greenery, placed in large tree.

Nest Placement

Tree

Behavior


Aerial Dive

Perches silently, waiting and watching for prey. Switches perches after brief periods. Descends on prey rapidly, maneuvering through forest vegetation or willingly crashing through it.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Apparently not as vulnerable as other raptor species to eggshell thinning from pesticides. Timber harvesting leads to some destruction of nests. The Northern Goshawk occurs even in fragmented forests, but perhaps less consistently than in large contiguous forest areas. Appears to be increasing slightly in the East.

Credits

  • Squires, John R., and Richard T. Reynolds. 1997. Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). In The Birds of North America, No. 298 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and the American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

Range Map Help

Northern Goshawk Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings