Learn About Northern Goshawk

The Goshawk (Accipiter gentiles), is a medium-large bird. It 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. The male is blue-grey above and barred grey below, 49–57 cm (19–22 in) long with a 93–105 cm (37–41 in) wingspan. The female is much larger, 58–64 cm (23–25 in) long with a 108–127 cm (42–50 in) wingspan, slate-grey above and grey below.

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. The most important prey species are birds, especially the ruffed grouse, pigeons and doves.

It is a widespread species that inhabits the temperate parts of the northern hemisphere. It is mainly resident, but birds from colder regions migrate south for the winter.

Adults return to their nesting territories by March or April and begin laying eggs in April or May. These territories almost include tracts of large, mature trees that the parents will nest in. The clutch size is usually 2 to 4. 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.

The main threat to goshawks internationally today is the clearing of forest habitat on which both they and their prey depend.

Scientific Classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Falconiformes
  • (or Accipitriformes, q.v.)
  • Family: Accipitridae
  • Genus: Accipiter
  • Species: A. gentilis

References: *BirdLife International (2004). Accipiter gentilis. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern *Linnaeus, C (1758). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata.. Holmiae. (Laurentii Salvii).. pp. 89. “F. cera pedibusque flavis, corpore cinereo maculis fuscis cauda fasciis quatuor nigricantibus.” *”Northern Goshawk”. Birds of Quebec. Retrieved on 2007-03-18.