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Merlin Bird ID

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    Northern Goshawk

    Silhouette AccipitersAccipiters

    Northern Goshawk

    Accipiter gentilis
    • ORDER: Accipitriformes
    • FAMILY: Accipitridae
    Basic Description

    The Northern Goshawk is the bigger, fiercer, wilder relative of the Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks that prowl suburbs and backyards. It’s an accipiter—a type of hawk with short, broad wings and a long rudderlike tail that give it superb aerial agility. These secretive birds are mostly gray with bold white “eyebrow” stripes over piercing orange to red eyes. Northern Goshawks flash through forests chasing bird and mammal prey, pouncing silently or crashing feet first through brush to grab quarry in crushingly strong talons.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Northern GoshawkRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    Northern Goshawks are secretive birds that typically live in large tracts of forest, so they are hard to find. They are vocal near their nests, but they are also fiercely defensive and have been known to attack people who come too close to a nest—please think twice before you approach a calling bird. Remember that goshawks don’t typically occur in populated areas, so any accipiter that you see in town or near a bird feeder is more likely a large Cooper’s Hawk than a goshawk. Your best chance of finding a Northern Goshawk is to spend time in mature forest being as quiet, observant—and patient—as possible.

    Other Names
    • Gavilán Azor (Spanish)
    • Autour des palombes (French)
    • Cool Facts