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Northern Goshawk

Accipiter gentilis ORDER: ACCIPITRIFORMES FAMILY: ACCIPITRIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

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.

Calls

  • Near Nest
     
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Adult goshawks give a rapid-fire ki-ki-ki-ki alarm call repeated 10–20 times in response to threats or when chasing prey. They sometimes precede the call with a drawn-out kreey-a. When defending the nest, the female’s call can intensify to a constant scream. Both males and females also use three variations of a wailing kree-ah: members of a pair call to each other when the male enters the territory (often announcing himself with a single-note call), and the female gives a shorter version of the wail when her partner brings food to the nest. Once he delivers the prey, she gives a slower, clipped kree-ah and continues calling until he leaves the area.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

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.

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