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Overview

Brief Summary

Goshawks are reckless rapid fliers. When hunting other birds in a dense forest, they 'take a running start' by flapping their wings several times and then rapidly flying after their chosen prey with their wings held very close to their bodies. In that way, they avoid hitting obstacles. If necessary, they will dive straight through bushes.
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Accipiter gentilis

Although closely related to the common Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks, the Northern Goshawk is encountered far less frequently. This is North America’s largest ‘bird hawk’ at 20-26 inches in length, and may be distinguished by its more familiar relatives by its larger size, grey-streaked breast, and dark cheek patch. Like most species of raptors, females are larger than males. The Northern Goshawk breeds in the Canadian sub-arctic, the northern tier of the United States, and at higher elevations in the Rocky Mountains south to central Mexico. This species may be found in its breeding range all year long, although some individuals move south into the mid-Atlantic, Ohio River valley, and Great Plains in winter. This species also inhabits northern Eurasia south the Mediterranean, Central Asia, and China. Northern Goshawks inhabit dense evergreen or mixed evergreen and deciduous forests. Like all ‘bird hawks,’ this species is equipped with the long tail and short, broad wings needed to hunt birds (on the ground, in trees, or in flight) from the air. Unlike most bird hawks, however, this species also takes Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus) in addition to avian prey. Large numbers of Northern Goshawks may wander far south of their normal range during winter in years when hare and grouse populations are low. With the aid of binoculars, Northern Goshawks may be seen perched in trees while scanning for prey. However, they are often more easily seen in the air while moving between perches or while actively hunting. As this species hunts by sight, it is only active during the day.

Threat Status: Least concern

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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: North America: western and central Alaska to northeastern Manitoba, Labrador, and Newfoundland, south to central California, southern Arizona, eastern foothills of Rockies, central Alberta, southern Manitoba, central Michigan, Pennsylvania, northwestern Connecticut, and in the Appalachians south to West Virginia and Maryland; locally in highlands of Mexico to Jalisco and Guerrero. Eurasia: British Isles, Scandinavia, northern Russia, and northern Siberia south to the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, Iran, the Himalayas, eastern China, and Japan (Squires and Reynolds 1997, AOU 1998). NON-BREEDING: throughout breeding range and irregularly southward (Squires and Reynolds 1997, AOU 1998). In some years there are large flights (irruptions) south beyond the usual wintering range. These excursions are prompted by changing conditions on the northern breeding grounds (Mueller et al. 1977). Recorded occasionally as far south as Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, and North Carolina (Adkisson 1990). The three subspecies in the U.S. have the following ranges: 1) ATRICAPILLUS: Alaska, Canada, eastern U.S., and the more northerly mountains of the west. 2) LAINGI: islands off the Canadian Pacific coast. 3) APACHE: southern Arizona, New Mexico, and the mountains of northwestern Mexico (Jones 1979).

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Geographic Range

Northern goshawks are found throughout the mountains and forests of North America and Eurasia. In North America they range from western central Alaska and the Yukon territories in the north to the mountains of northwestern and western Mexico. They are typically not found in the southeastern United States.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native )

Other Geographic Terms: holarctic

  • Clark, W., B. Wheeler. 1987. Peterson Field Guides, Hawks. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Johnsgard, P. 1990. Hawks, Eagles, & Falcons of North America. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.
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All About Birds provides a distributional map of the northern goshawk.

States and provinces:
United States: AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NN, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, UT, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Canada: AB, BC, MB, NB, NF, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT (as of 2012 [34])
Mexico [48]

  • 34. NatureServe. 2013. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life, [Online]. Version 7.1. Arlington, VA: NatureServe (Producer). Available http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. [69873]
  • 48. Squires, John R.; Reynolds, Richard T. 1997. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), [Online]. Issue No. 298. In: Poole, A., ed. The birds of North America Online. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Producer). Available: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/298 [2012, November 30]. [84032]

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Geographic Range

Northern goshawks are found throughout the mountains and forests of North America and Eurasia. In North America they range from western central Alaska and the Yukon territories in the north to the mountains of northwestern and western Mexico. They are typically not found in the southeastern United States.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native )

Other Geographic Terms: holarctic

  • Clark, W., B. Wheeler. 1987. Peterson Field Guides, Hawks. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Johnsgard, P. 1990. Hawks, Eagles, & Falcons of North America. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Northern goshawks are the largest species of the genus Accipiter. Males generally weigh between 630 and 1100 grams, average 55 cm in length, and have a wingspan ranging from 98 to 104 centimeters. Females are slightly larger, weighing, on average, between 860 and 1360 grams, and having a wingspan of 105 to 115 centimeters and an average length of 61 cm.

Northern goshawks have a white grouping of feathers above the eye. These feathers are more pronounced in northern goshawks than in other members of the group to which they belong, the Accipitridae. The eye color of adult goshawks is red to reddish-brown, in juveniles eye color is bright yellow.

Adult male and female goshawks range in color from blue-gray to black. Their backs, the tops of their wings, and their heads are usually dark, and their undersides are usually white with light gray horizontal bands. Their tails are light gray and have three or four dark bands.

Young goshawks don't look like their parents. Their backs, the tops of their wings, and their heads are brown, and their undersides are white with vertical brown stripes.

Range mass: 631 to 1364 g.

Range length: 55 to 61 cm.

Range wingspan: 98 to 115 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

  • Wheeler, B., W. Clark. 1995. A Photographic Guide to North American Raptors. San Diego: Academic Press Limited.
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Physical Description

Northern goshawks are the largest species of the genus Accipiter. Males generally weigh between 630 and 1100 grams, average 55 cm in length, and have a wingspan ranging from 98 to 104 centimeters. Females are slightly larger, weighing, on average, between 860 and 1360 grams, and having a wingspan of 105 to 115 centimeters and an average length of 61 cm.

All accipiters, including northern goshawks, have a distinctive white grouping of feathers which form a band above the eye (the superciliary). In goshawks this band is thick and more pronounced than in the other members of the species. The eye color of adult goshawks is red to reddish-brown, in juveniles eye color is bright yellow.

The colorings of adult male and female northern goshawks range from slate blue-gray to black. Their backs, wing coverts, and heads are usually dark, and their undersides are white with fine, gray, horizontal barring. Their tails are light gray with three or four dark bands.

A juvenile northern goshawk's coloring is quite different than that of the adult. Their backs, wing coverts, and heads are brown, and their undersides are white with vertical brown streaking.

Range mass: 631 to 1364 g.

Range length: 55 to 61 cm.

Range wingspan: 98 to 115 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

  • Wheeler, B., W. Clark. 1995. A Photographic Guide to North American Raptors. San Diego: Academic Press Limited.
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Size

Length: 66 cm

Weight: 1137 grams

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: BREEDING: Nests in a wide variety of forest types including deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forests. Has a complexity of habitat needs in the breeding season, which vary among forest types and region (Johnsgard 1990). Typically nests in mature or old-growth forests (Hayward and Escano 1989, Reynolds et al. 1982, Speiser and Bosakowski 1987, Squires and Ruggiero 1996, Squires and Reynolds 1997, McClaren 1998, Daw and Stefano 2001), and generally selects larger tracts of forest over smaller tracts (Bosakowski and Speiser 1994, Woodbridge and Detrich 1994). In the eastern U.S., nests in hardwood-hemlock (TSUGA CANADENSIS) forests, where black birch (BETULA LENTA) and American beech (FAGUS GRANDIFOLIA) are preferred nest trees (Speiser and Bosakowski 1987). In the western U.S., characteristically nests in coniferous forests including those dominated by ponderosa pine (PINUS PONDEROSA; Bright-Smith and Mannan 1994, Reynolds et al. 1992), lodgepole pine (PINUS CONTORTA; Squires and Ruggiero 1996), or in mixed forests dominated by various coniferous species including fir (ABIES spp.), Douglas-fir (PSEUDOTSUGA MENZIESII), cedar (THUJA spp.), hemlock, spruce (PICEA spp.), and larch (LARIX spp.; Hayward and Escano 1989, Reynolds et al. 1982). Western birds also nest in deciduous forests dominated by aspen (POPULUS TREMULOIDES), paper birch (BETULA PAPYRIFERA), or willow (SALIX spp.; McGowan 1975, cited in Squires and Reynolds 1997; Swem and Adams 1992, cited in Squires and Reynolds 1997; Younk and Bechard 1994).

While generally associated with remote habitat, goshawks in Europe apparently have adapted to human-occupied landscapes and nest near farms and settlements (Palmer 1988). Palmer noted that this species may be undergoing similar adaptation in northeastern U.S.; for example, it is apparently not uncommon in suburbs of Boston (L. Master, pers. comm.).

Nests are generally constructed in the largest trees of dense, old or mature stands with high canopy closure (60-95 percent) and sparse groundcover, near the bottom of moderate slopes, and near water or dry openings(Bull and Hohmann 1994, Daw and DeStefano 2001, Hargis et al. 1994, Reynolds et al 1982, Siders and Kennedy 1994, Squires and Ruggiero 1996, Younk and Bechard 1994). Occasionally will nest in relatively open stands (10 percent canopy coverage; Reynolds et al. 1982). Nest height above the ground is significantly correlated with nest-tree height (Kennedy 1988, cited in Squires and Reynolds 1997). Nest height ranges from 2.5-43 meters (Gabrielson and Lincoln 1959, Siders and Kennedy 1994). May use same nest in successive years. May use other hawk nest as base. Nests in arctic tundra and taiga have also been documented in interior Alaska (Olendorff et al. 1989).

Forages in both heavily forested and relatively open habitats. In Ponderosa pine forest of Arizona, habitat on sites selected for foraging had higher canopy coverage, greater tree density, and greater density of large trees (greater than 40.5 centimeter DBH), but lower prey abundance than non-foraging sites (Beier and Drennan 1997). In Nevada, foraged in open sagebrush (ARTEMISIA spp.) adjacent to riparian aspen stands (Younk and Bechard 1992, cited in Squires and Reynolds 1997).

NON-BREEDING: habitat requirements during winter are poorly understood, especially in the U.S. (Squires and Reynolds 1997). During winter in Sweden, inhabits a fragmented landscape of forests, clearcuts, wetlands and agricultural lands. Whereas non-forested habitats were used in proportion to their availability, large tracts of mature forest were used preferentially (Widen 1989).

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour The species is mainly resident, but its northernmost populations in North America, Scandinavia and Russia migrate south between September and November, returning in March and April (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Snow and Perrins 1998). Soaring flight is used frequently (Snow and Perrins 1998). It is always seen singly or in pairs (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Habitat It inhabits mature woodland, preferring areas near clearings and the forest edge (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Diet Small birds and mammals make up the vast majority of its diet, with grouse, pheasants and partridges being especially important in boreal zones (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Breeding site Nests are built on the forks or branches of large trees (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Management information The species's optimal habitat appears to be areas of farmland interspersed with mature forest; afforestation has improved its status across parts of its range (del Hoyo et al. 1994).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Northern goshawks can be found in coniferous and deciduous forests. During their nesting period, they prefer mature forests consisting of a combination of old, tall trees with intermediate canopy coverage and small open areas within the forest for foraging. During the cold winter months they migrate to warmer areas, usually at lower elevations.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: taiga ; savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; forest ; mountains

  • Squires, J., R. Reynolds. 1997. Northern Goshawk. The Birds of North America, 298: 2-27.
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Preferred Habitat

More info for the terms: association, competition, cover, density, phase, presence, selection, snag, tree

HABITAT:
Northern goshawk habitat includes a variety of forest types and stand structures, depending on geographic location and life history activities. The northern goshawk's large home ranges and ability to move great distances mean that it may encounter a variety of habitats over a short period. In addition to nesting habitat, northern goshawks need foraging habitat in both the breeding and nonbreeding seasons and in postfledging areas where young learn to hunt but are protected from predators [43]. Habitat selection may be shaped by landscape structure and pattern and/or occupancy by other raptors [43]. In general, as the scale of analysis increases (i.e., from stand to landscape), northern goshawks use more diverse habitats and show less preference for specific habitat features [3,10,17,43]. Northern goshawks appear to use a wider range of habitats during the nonbreeding season than the breeding season [3].

In general, northern goshawks appear to prefer relatively dense forests [24,25,47] with large trees [3,24] and relatively high canopy closures [3,24,25,47]. A review noted that 9 of 12 radio telemetry studies from the western United States found northern goshawks selected stands with higher canopy closures, larger trees, and more large trees than found in random stands. But northern goshawks still used stands with a wide range of structural conditions [24]. The use of forests with relatively large trees and high canopy closures may be related to increased protection from predators, increased food availability, limited exposure to cold temperatures and precipitation early in the breeding season, limited exposure to high temperatures in the summer nestling period, high mobility due to a lack of understory structure, and less competition from other raptor species that inhabit more open habitats [3].

The relatively large body size and wingspan of the northern goshawks limit its use of young, dense forests where there is insufficient space in and below the canopy to facilitate flight and capture of prey. There are also few suitably large trees for nesting in young, dense forests [40].

Breeding habitat: Northern goshawk habitat use may be most selective during the breeding season, mostly due to strong preferences for nest placement [43,48].

Nest stand: Forest stands containing nests are often small, ranging from approximately 24 to 247 acres (10-100 ha) [48]. Tree species composition is highly variable among nest sites both within a region and a across the range of the northern goshawk [40]. Northern goshawks nests are often found in mature or late-successional forests [3,15,17,43,48] with high canopy closures [9,17,43,47,48] and large trees [43,48] but relatively open understories [26,43,48]. However, due to frequent bias in northern goshawk nest detection methods, the selection of mature forest over other forest successional stages has been demonstrated in only a few studies [43].

Northern goshawks nested in this conifer forest in western Montana.

Though northern goshawks are most often documented nesting in late-successional forests, they sometimes nest in younger, more open forests. For example, in dry areas of the West such as the Great Basin, northern goshawks nested in high-elevation shrubsteppe habitats supporting small, highly fragmented stands of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) [52]. In a conifer plantation in western Washington, 3 northern goshawk pairs nested in younger, denser stands than previously reported for the region; nest sites were composed of 40- to 54-year-old, second-growth conifer stands with high live tree and snag densities [9].

Northern goshawk nest sites are often located near water [43,47,52], though some studies have shown no association between nest sites and water [26,43] and the presence of water is not considered a habitat requirement [48]. The function of open water during nesting is unknown [43].

Nest sites often are located close to forest openings or other open areas [12,15,26,43,47], which may increase nest access, serve as travel corridors, support open-habitat prey species, or reduce flight barriers to fledglings [48]. However, one study from west-central Montana noted that the number of young fledged per nest was negatively correlated with the size of the nonforested openings near the nest (P≤0.05) [12].

Slope and aspect may influence microclimate conditions important to northern goshawk nesting. Northern goshawk nests are often located at the base of moderate slopes [48] and tend to be on gentle rather than steep terrain [15]. However, there may be no relationship between nesting and slope in areas with low topographic relief, like the Great Lakes region [7]. One study from west-central Montana found that 82.6% of occupied nests were located on north slopes [12]. Preferred aspects may vary regionally; one review noted that in southern parts of the range, northern goshawks nest areas typically had northerly aspects, while nest areas in interior Alaska had southerly aspects [26].

Postfledging family areas: A postfledging area represents the area of concentrated use for a northern goshawk family from the time the young leave the nest until they are no longer dependent on the adults for food. Northern goshawks typically defend this area as a territory. Postfledging family areas provide hiding cover and prey for fledglings to develop hunting skills. They typically contain patches of dense trees, developed herbaceous and/or shrubby understories, and habitat attributes that support prey, such as snags, downed logs, and small openings. Postfledging family areas range in size from 300 to 600 acres (120-240 ha) [40].

Wintering habitat: Northern goshawk breeding habitat has been studied much more intensively than nonbreeding habitat. In general, northern goshawks use a wider range of habitats during the nonbreeding season than during the breeding season [48]. One review reports that northern goshawks in northern Arizona may select winter foraging sites based on forest structure rather than prey abundance, similar to selection in the breeding season [26] (see Foraging habitat). In some regions, northern goshawks appear to remain near breeding areas throughout the year [3,7,43], though there is considerable annual variation and variation between sexes in nonbreeding habitat use [3]. In at least some landscapes, northern goshawks forage in late-successional forest habitats throughout the year [3,24]. However, some northern goshawks move to low-elevation, open plant communities (e.g., woodlands) in the winter [3,24].

Foraging habitat: Northern goshawks forage by ambush and perching in vegetation to scan for prey items. They occasionally hunt by flying rapidly along forest edges and across openings [26]. Ideal foraging habitat includes space under the canopy to allow for flight, abundant trees perches, and available prey [53]. Preferred perches while hunting are low (usually <3 feet (1 m)), bent-over trees or saplings. Plucking perches where northern goshawks consume prey are usually located in dense vegetation below the main forest canopy and are often upslope and fairly close to the nest in the breeding season [48].

Northern goshawks forage over large areas and encounter a variety of forest structures [23,26] and plant communities [48] when foraging. In the breeding season, a foraging area may encompass 5,400 acres (2,200 ha) surrounding the postfledging family area [40]. Northern goshawks may rely heavily on mature forest while foraging [3,10,17] but may also forage in younger forests, edges, and openings [10,17,26,43]. An open understory may enhance the detection of potential prey [3,40,43].

Prey abundance may be an important feature of foraging habitat, but several sources stress the importance of prey availability [3,5,22,26,40,53], which is often linked to vegetative structure that allows northern goshawks to hunt successfully [3]. For example, over 2 breeding seasons in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests in northern Arizona, 20 adult northern goshawks did not select foraging sites based on prey abundance; abundance of some prey was lower in selected sites than what was generally available. Northern goshawks instead selected foraging sites that had higher canopy closure (P=0.006), greater tree density (P=0.001), and greater density of trees >16.0 inches (40.6 cm) DBH (P<0.0005) than what was generally available. The authors concluded that above a minimal prey threshold, northern goshawks may select sites with favorable structure over those with abundant prey. However, they also suggested that their results only apply to foraging habitat selection within an established home range. Prey abundance may be an important factor when northern goshawks initially establish a home range [5].

In the Great Lakes region, male northern goshawks primarily foraged in mature upland conifer and upland deciduous stands, but other stand types were used and may be important to prey production [7]. In lodgepole pine (P. contorta) and quaking aspen forest in south-central Wyoming, the kill sites of male northern goshawks in the breeding season were more related to stand structure and aspect than prey abundance. Males returned most often to sites with more mature forests (P=0.0), gentler slopes (P=0.011), lower ground cover of woody plants (P=0.023), and greater densities of trees (P<0.089) and conifers (P<0.14) ≥9 inches (23 cm) but ≤15 inches (38 cm) DBH. Average canopy closure at kill sites was 52.8%. Kill sites were often associated with small openings; average distance to the nearest open area was 152.2 feet (46.4 m). The author noted that several prey species were often associated with forest edges. The results of this study suggest that the high density of large trees allowed northern goshawks to approach prey unseen, while the low density of understory vegetation allowed northern goshawks to see potential prey items. At the landscape scale, male northern goshawks intensively used large areas of conifer forests interspersed with small openings in proximity to nests. They used a variety of habitats, from narrow patches of quaking aspen in drainages surrounded by sagebrush (Artemisia) and grassland to areas dominated by conifer forests [22].

Roosting habitat: Northern goshawks roost alone in the tree canopy and may use several sites for roosting. In the early nesting phase, female northern goshawks roost on the nest while brooding young [48]. In California, roost tree species and roosting stand characteristics varied by season, which the authors hypothesized was in response to changes in prey abundance and availability [42].

Landscape features: Northern goshawks use large landscapes for many life history activities, though it is difficult to make broad generalizations about the importance of landscape features to northern goshawk populations. Studies and reviews highlight the importance of landscape features such as the presence of large areas of mature forest [10,15,26,40], a mosaic of forest structural stages [17,25,26,40], limited forest fragmentation [26,51], and large patch sizes [9,43,51].

  • 3. Andersen, David E.; DeStefano, Stephen; Goldstein, Michael I.; Titus, Kimberly; Crocker-Bedford, Cole; Keane, John J.; Anthony, Robert G.; Rosenfield, Robert N. 2005. Technical review of the status of northern goshawks in the western United States. Journal of Raptor Research. 39(3): 192-209. [84132]
  • 7. Boal, Clint W.; Andersen, David E.; Kennedy, Patricia L.; Roberson, Aimee M. 2006. Northern goshawk ecology in the western Great Lakes region. Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 126-134. [84224]
  • 9. Bosakowski, Thomas; McCullough, Bruce; Lapsansky, Frank J.; Vaughn, Martin E. 1999. Northern goshawks nesting on a private industrial forest in western Washington. Journal of Raptor Research. 33(3): 240-244. [84254]
  • 10. Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russell T. 2006. Goshawk status and management: what do we know, what have we done, where are we going? Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 312-325. [84260]
  • 12. Clough, Lorraine T. 2000. Nesting habitat selection and productivity of northern goshawks in west-central Montana. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. 87 p. Thesis. [84583]
  • 15. DeStefano, Stephen. 2005. A review of the status and distribution of northern goshawks in New England. Journal of Raptor Research. 39(3): 324-332. [84390]
  • 17. DeStefano, Stephen; McGrath, Michael T.; Daw, Sonya K.; Desimone, Steven M. 2006. Ecology and habitat of breeding northern goshawks in the inland Pacific Northwest: a summary of research in the 1990s. Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 75-84. [84387]
  • 23. Graham, Russell T; Jain, Theresa B.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Boyce, Douglas A. 1997. The role of fire in sustaining northern goshawk habitat in Rocky Mountain forests. In: Greenlee, Jason M., ed. Proceedings, 1st conference on fire effects on rare and endangered species and habitats; 1995 November 13-16; Coeur d'Alene, ID. Fairfield, WA: International Association of Wildland Fire: 69-76. [28124]
  • 24. Greenwald, D. Noah; Crocker-Bedford, D. Coleman; Broberg, Len; Suckling, Kieran; Tibbitts, Timothy. 2005. A review of northern goshawk habitat selection in the home range and implications for forest management in the western United States. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 33(1): 120-129. [84508]
  • 40. Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russel T.; Reiser, M. Hildegard; Bassett, Richard L.; Kennedy, Patricia L.; Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Goodwin, Greg; Smith, Randall; Fisher, E. Leon. 1992. Management recommendations for the northern goshawk in the southwestern United States. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-217. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 90 p. [27983]
  • 42. Rickman, Tom H.; Jones, Bobette E.; Cluck, Danny R.; Richter, David J.; Tate, Kenneth W. 2005. Night roost habitat of radiotagged northern goshawks on Lassen National Forest, California. Journal of Wildlife Management. 69(4): 1737-1742. [84981]
  • 43. Roberson, Aimee M.; Andersen, David E.; Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. The northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) in the western Great Lakes region: a technical conservation assessment. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, Minnesota Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit. 91 p. [84982]
  • 47. Shepperd, Wayne D.; Battaglia, Michael A. 2002. Ecology, silviculture, and management of Black Hills ponderosa pine. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-97. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 112 p. [44794]
  • 51. Woodbridge, Brian; Detrich, Phillip J. 1994. Territory occupancy and habitat patch size of northern goshawks in the southern Cascades of California. Studies in Avian Biology. 16: 83-87. [84190]
  • 5. Beier, Paul; Drennan, Joseph E. 1997. Forest structure and prey abundance in foraging areas of northern goshawks. Ecological Applications. 7(2): 564-571. [62226]
  • 22. Good, Rhett E. 1998. Factors affecting the relative use of northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) kill areas in southcentral Wyoming. Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming. 153 p. Thesis. [84092]
  • 25. Hargis, C. D., C. McCarthy, and R. D. Perloff. 1994. Home ranges and habitats of northern goshawks in eastern California. Studies in Avian Biology. 16: 66-74. [84191]
  • 52. Younk, James V.; Bechard, Marc J. 1994. Breeding ecology of the northern goshawk in high-elevation aspen forests of northern Nevada. Studies in Avian Biology. 16: 119-121. [84223]
  • 53. Youtz, James A.; Graham, Russell T.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Simon, Jerry. 2007. Implementing northern goshawk Habitat management in southwestern forests: a template for restoring fire-adapted forest ecosystems. In: Deal, R. L., ed. Proceedings of the 2007 national silviculture workshop. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-733. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 173-191. [73716]
  • 26. Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentiles atricapillus): a technical conservation assessment, [Online]. Golden, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region (Producer). 142 p. Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/projects/scp/assessments/northerngoshawk.pdf [2012, February 9]. [84509]
  • 48. Squires, John R.; Reynolds, Richard T. 1997. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), [Online]. Issue No. 298. In: Poole, A., ed. The birds of North America Online. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Producer). Available: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/298 [2012, November 30]. [84032]

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Biological Data

This review includes information covering many aspects of northern goshawk life history but focuses on those most relevant to fire. The information presented here relies heavily on syntheses material from several sources, including "The birds of North America Online" [48] species account for the northern goshawk and reviews of the northern goshawk's status and/or habitat needs throughout its range [10] and in the following regions: New England [15], Great Lakes [7,43], central Rocky Mountains [26], Rocky Mountains [23], western United States [3,10,24], the Pacific Northwest [17], and the Southwest [40,53].
  • 3. Andersen, David E.; DeStefano, Stephen; Goldstein, Michael I.; Titus, Kimberly; Crocker-Bedford, Cole; Keane, John J.; Anthony, Robert G.; Rosenfield, Robert N. 2005. Technical review of the status of northern goshawks in the western United States. Journal of Raptor Research. 39(3): 192-209. [84132]
  • 7. Boal, Clint W.; Andersen, David E.; Kennedy, Patricia L.; Roberson, Aimee M. 2006. Northern goshawk ecology in the western Great Lakes region. Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 126-134. [84224]
  • 10. Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russell T. 2006. Goshawk status and management: what do we know, what have we done, where are we going? Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 312-325. [84260]
  • 15. DeStefano, Stephen. 2005. A review of the status and distribution of northern goshawks in New England. Journal of Raptor Research. 39(3): 324-332. [84390]
  • 17. DeStefano, Stephen; McGrath, Michael T.; Daw, Sonya K.; Desimone, Steven M. 2006. Ecology and habitat of breeding northern goshawks in the inland Pacific Northwest: a summary of research in the 1990s. Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 75-84. [84387]
  • 23. Graham, Russell T; Jain, Theresa B.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Boyce, Douglas A. 1997. The role of fire in sustaining northern goshawk habitat in Rocky Mountain forests. In: Greenlee, Jason M., ed. Proceedings, 1st conference on fire effects on rare and endangered species and habitats; 1995 November 13-16; Coeur d'Alene, ID. Fairfield, WA: International Association of Wildland Fire: 69-76. [28124]
  • 24. Greenwald, D. Noah; Crocker-Bedford, D. Coleman; Broberg, Len; Suckling, Kieran; Tibbitts, Timothy. 2005. A review of northern goshawk habitat selection in the home range and implications for forest management in the western United States. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 33(1): 120-129. [84508]
  • 40. Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russel T.; Reiser, M. Hildegard; Bassett, Richard L.; Kennedy, Patricia L.; Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Goodwin, Greg; Smith, Randall; Fisher, E. Leon. 1992. Management recommendations for the northern goshawk in the southwestern United States. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-217. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 90 p. [27983]
  • 43. Roberson, Aimee M.; Andersen, David E.; Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. The northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) in the western Great Lakes region: a technical conservation assessment. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, Minnesota Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit. 91 p. [84982]
  • 53. Youtz, James A.; Graham, Russell T.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Simon, Jerry. 2007. Implementing northern goshawk Habitat management in southwestern forests: a template for restoring fire-adapted forest ecosystems. In: Deal, R. L., ed. Proceedings of the 2007 national silviculture workshop. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-733. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 173-191. [73716]
  • 26. Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentiles atricapillus): a technical conservation assessment, [Online]. Golden, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region (Producer). 142 p. Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/projects/scp/assessments/northerngoshawk.pdf [2012, February 9]. [84509]
  • 48. Squires, John R.; Reynolds, Richard T. 1997. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), [Online]. Issue No. 298. In: Poole, A., ed. The birds of North America Online. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Producer). Available: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/298 [2012, November 30]. [84032]

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Associated Plant Communities

More info for the term: fire regime

Northern goshawks breed in most forested plant communities available throughout their range, including coniferous, deciduous, and mixed forest types. In addition to forested areas, they may also use shrublands and open areas while foraging, migrating, or overwintering [48]. Several reviews contain additional information on plant communities used by northern goshawks throughout their range [10,48] and in the western United States [3,10,23,24,26], the Pacific Northwest [17], the Southwest [40,46,53], the Great Lakes region [7,43], and New England [15]. See the Fire Regime Table for a list of plant communities in which the northern goshawk may occur and information on the FIRE REGIMES associated with those communities.
  • 3. Andersen, David E.; DeStefano, Stephen; Goldstein, Michael I.; Titus, Kimberly; Crocker-Bedford, Cole; Keane, John J.; Anthony, Robert G.; Rosenfield, Robert N. 2005. Technical review of the status of northern goshawks in the western United States. Journal of Raptor Research. 39(3): 192-209. [84132]
  • 7. Boal, Clint W.; Andersen, David E.; Kennedy, Patricia L.; Roberson, Aimee M. 2006. Northern goshawk ecology in the western Great Lakes region. Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 126-134. [84224]
  • 10. Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russell T. 2006. Goshawk status and management: what do we know, what have we done, where are we going? Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 312-325. [84260]
  • 15. DeStefano, Stephen. 2005. A review of the status and distribution of northern goshawks in New England. Journal of Raptor Research. 39(3): 324-332. [84390]
  • 17. DeStefano, Stephen; McGrath, Michael T.; Daw, Sonya K.; Desimone, Steven M. 2006. Ecology and habitat of breeding northern goshawks in the inland Pacific Northwest: a summary of research in the 1990s. Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 75-84. [84387]
  • 23. Graham, Russell T; Jain, Theresa B.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Boyce, Douglas A. 1997. The role of fire in sustaining northern goshawk habitat in Rocky Mountain forests. In: Greenlee, Jason M., ed. Proceedings, 1st conference on fire effects on rare and endangered species and habitats; 1995 November 13-16; Coeur d'Alene, ID. Fairfield, WA: International Association of Wildland Fire: 69-76. [28124]
  • 24. Greenwald, D. Noah; Crocker-Bedford, D. Coleman; Broberg, Len; Suckling, Kieran; Tibbitts, Timothy. 2005. A review of northern goshawk habitat selection in the home range and implications for forest management in the western United States. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 33(1): 120-129. [84508]
  • 40. Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russel T.; Reiser, M. Hildegard; Bassett, Richard L.; Kennedy, Patricia L.; Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Goodwin, Greg; Smith, Randall; Fisher, E. Leon. 1992. Management recommendations for the northern goshawk in the southwestern United States. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-217. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 90 p. [27983]
  • 43. Roberson, Aimee M.; Andersen, David E.; Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. The northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) in the western Great Lakes region: a technical conservation assessment. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, Minnesota Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit. 91 p. [84982]
  • 46. Salafsky, Susan Rebecca. 2004. Covariation between prey abundance and northern goshawk fecundity on the Kaibab Plateau, Arizona. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University. 39 p. Thesis. [61352]
  • 53. Youtz, James A.; Graham, Russell T.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Simon, Jerry. 2007. Implementing northern goshawk Habitat management in southwestern forests: a template for restoring fire-adapted forest ecosystems. In: Deal, R. L., ed. Proceedings of the 2007 national silviculture workshop. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-733. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 173-191. [73716]
  • 26. Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentiles atricapillus): a technical conservation assessment, [Online]. Golden, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region (Producer). 142 p. Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/projects/scp/assessments/northerngoshawk.pdf [2012, February 9]. [84509]
  • 48. Squires, John R.; Reynolds, Richard T. 1997. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), [Online]. Issue No. 298. In: Poole, A., ed. The birds of North America Online. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Producer). Available: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/298 [2012, November 30]. [84032]

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Northern goshawks can be found in coniferous and deciduous forests. During their nesting period, they prefer mature forests consisting of a combination of old, tall trees with intermediate canopy coverage and small open areas within the forest for foraging. During the cold winter months they migrate to warmer areas, usually at lower elevations.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: taiga ; savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; forest ; mountains

  • Squires, J., R. Reynolds. 1997. Northern Goshawk. The Birds of North America, 298: 2-27.
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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Generally a permanent resident or conducts only short-distance movements over most of range, but periodically has irruptions of movement out of northern portions of range. Fall migration appears to be influenced by prey availability (Squires and Reynolds 1997). For example, in Yukon Territory, Canada, year-round residents are abundant when snowshoe hares (LEPUS AMERICANUS) are abundant, but scarce in winter when hare population is low (Doyle and Smith 1994). Approximately once per decade, large numbers migrate southward, apparently in response to a decline in prey populations, particularly snowshoe hares and ruffed grouse (BONASA UMBELLUS; Bent 1937, Doyle and Smith 1994, Mueller et al. 1977, Squires and Reynolds 1997). Depending on location and year, fall movements begin in late August through September, peak in late September through mid-November, and typically end in December. Spring movements, which are less pronounced, begin in late February and continue through late May. Movement routes are poorly defined, particularly in the western U.S. In the eastern U.S., migrates along the Great lakes, the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic coast (Squires and Reynolds 1997). Some birds make extensive movements; four individuals, banded in Minnesota, were recovered up to 2400 kilometers away in British Columbia (Evans and Rosenfield 1985, cited in Squires and Reynolds 1997; Campbell et al. 1990). Other birds, however, undergo short movements from one elevation to another (Squires and Reynolds 1997).

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Forages during short flights alternated with brief prey searches from perches. Also hunts by flying rapidly along forest edges, across openings, and through dense vegetation. An opportunistic hunter, preys on a wide variety of vertebrates and, occasionally, insects. Prey is taken on the ground, in vegetation, or in the air. Despite their larger size, females do not capture larger or heavier prey than males (Boal and Mannan 1996). Dominant mammalian prey include five species of tree squirrels, four ground squirrels, and lagomorphs. Frequently killed birds include three galliformes, four corvids, six woodpeckers (piciformes) and the American robin (TURDUS MIGRATORIUS; Squires and Reynolds 1997). During the nesting season, the diet can vary with prey availability. For example, as more fledgling passerines become available, they make up a greater portion of the diet (Linden and Wikman 1983, Reynolds and Meslow 1984). Ratio of mammalian prey to avian prey in the diet during the breeding season (in percent): Arizona, 76:24 and 62:38 (Boal and Mannan 1994, Reynolds et al. 1994); Nevada, 67:32 (Younk and Bechard 1994); New York, 39:61 (Grzybowski and Eaton 1976); and Oregon, 42:59 and 45:55 (Bull and Hohmann 1994, Reynolds and Meslow 1984).

Nonbreeding season food habits are unknown for North American populations. In Sweden, birds dominate the diet during the nesting season (86 percent of prey), whereas in winter, red squirrels (SCIURUS VULGARIS) comprise the bulk of the diet (79 percent; Widen 1987, cited in Squires and Reynolds 1997).

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Food Habits

Northern goshawks are carnivores. Their main prey are birds, mammals, invertebrates, and reptiles. Individual prey can weigh up to half the weight of the goshawk. Each individual goshawk preys on what is most available in its environment. The average diet consists of 21 to 59 percent mammals and 18 to 69 percent birds, with the remaining percentages being made up of reptiles and invertebrates. Some common prey include Lepus americanus, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus, Spermophilus, Dendragapus canadensis, Bonasa umbellus, and Dendragapus obscurus.

Northern goshawks sometimes save prey on tree branches or a crotch of a tree for up to 32 hours. This is usually only done by adults while their chicks are nestlings.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles; insects

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

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Diet

More info for the terms: competition, fitness, tree

The northern goshawk opportunistically feeds on a wide diversity of prey items that varies by region, season, and availability. Though the list of potential prey species is extensive, a few taxa are particularly prevalent in most diets [48]. Diet options may be narrower in northerly latitudes, where fewer prey species are available, than in lower latitudes [40,43].

Prey species prevalent in the diet of northern goshawks throughout their range [48]
Mammals Tree squirrels Abert's squirrel (Sciurus aberti), eastern gray squirrel (S. carolinensis), Douglas's squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii), red squirrel (T. hudsonicus), northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)

Ground squirrels

Belding's ground squirrel (Spermophilus beldingi), golden-mantled ground squirrel (S. lateralis), Richardson's ground squirrel (S. richardsonii), Townsend's ground squirrel (S. townsendii)
Lagomorphs cottontails (Sylvilagus spp.), jackrabbits (Lepus spp.), snowshoe hare
Birds Phasianidae dusky grouse (Dendragapus obscurus), ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus), spruce grouse (Falcipennis canadensis)
Corvidae American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata), Steller's jay (C. stelleri), gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis),
Picidae American three-toed woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis), black-backed woodpecker (P. arcticus), hairy woodpecker (P. villosus), northern flicker (Colaptes auratus), pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus),Williamson's sapsucker (Sphyrapicus thyroideus)
Turdidae American robin (Turdus migratorius)

Regional diet summaries are available from the Great Lakes [7,43], South Dakota [47], the central Rocky Mountains [26], and eastern Oregon [17].

Prey habitat and availability: Managing for prey species is a major component of habitat recommendations for the northern goshawk (e.g., see [40]). Northern goshawk populations may experience reduced fitness and reproduction, greater interspecific competition for food, and greater susceptibility to predators when food resources are limited [26]. Several reviews emphasize the importance of both prey abundance and availability when determining suitable northern goshawk habitat. In other words, prey need to be both present and huntable, with availability determined by stand structure [24,26].

For information on habitat preferences of northern goshawk prey species, see the following reviews from the Southwest [10,40,53] and central Rocky Mountains [26] or FEIS reviews for the following species: Abert's squirrel, Townsend's ground squirrel, eastern cottontail, black-tailed jackrabbit, snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse, gray jay, and black-backed woodpecker.

  • 7. Boal, Clint W.; Andersen, David E.; Kennedy, Patricia L.; Roberson, Aimee M. 2006. Northern goshawk ecology in the western Great Lakes region. Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 126-134. [84224]
  • 10. Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russell T. 2006. Goshawk status and management: what do we know, what have we done, where are we going? Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 312-325. [84260]
  • 17. DeStefano, Stephen; McGrath, Michael T.; Daw, Sonya K.; Desimone, Steven M. 2006. Ecology and habitat of breeding northern goshawks in the inland Pacific Northwest: a summary of research in the 1990s. Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 75-84. [84387]
  • 24. Greenwald, D. Noah; Crocker-Bedford, D. Coleman; Broberg, Len; Suckling, Kieran; Tibbitts, Timothy. 2005. A review of northern goshawk habitat selection in the home range and implications for forest management in the western United States. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 33(1): 120-129. [84508]
  • 40. Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russel T.; Reiser, M. Hildegard; Bassett, Richard L.; Kennedy, Patricia L.; Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Goodwin, Greg; Smith, Randall; Fisher, E. Leon. 1992. Management recommendations for the northern goshawk in the southwestern United States. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-217. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 90 p. [27983]
  • 43. Roberson, Aimee M.; Andersen, David E.; Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. The northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) in the western Great Lakes region: a technical conservation assessment. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, Minnesota Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit. 91 p. [84982]
  • 47. Shepperd, Wayne D.; Battaglia, Michael A. 2002. Ecology, silviculture, and management of Black Hills ponderosa pine. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-97. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 112 p. [44794]
  • 53. Youtz, James A.; Graham, Russell T.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Simon, Jerry. 2007. Implementing northern goshawk Habitat management in southwestern forests: a template for restoring fire-adapted forest ecosystems. In: Deal, R. L., ed. Proceedings of the 2007 national silviculture workshop. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-733. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 173-191. [73716]
  • 26. Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentiles atricapillus): a technical conservation assessment, [Online]. Golden, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region (Producer). 142 p. Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/projects/scp/assessments/northerngoshawk.pdf [2012, February 9]. [84509]
  • 48. Squires, John R.; Reynolds, Richard T. 1997. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), [Online]. Issue No. 298. In: Poole, A., ed. The birds of North America Online. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Producer). Available: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/298 [2012, November 30]. [84032]

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Food Habits

Northern goshawks are carnivorous, mainly consuming birds, mammals, invertebrates, and reptiles of moderate to large size. Individual prey items can weigh up to half the weight of the goshawk. The content of an individual goshawks diet depends upon the environment in which that goshawk live. The average diet consists of 21 to 59 percent mammals and 18 to 69 percent birds, with the remaining percentages being made up of reptiles and invertebrates. Some common prey include snow-shoe hares, red squirrels, ground squirrels, spruce grouse, ruffed grouse, and blue grouse. Northern goshawks sometimes cache prey on tree branches or wedged in a crotch between branches for up to 32 hours. This is done primarily during the nestling stage.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles; insects

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Northern goshawks are important as predators in the ecosystems in which they live, especially to small mammal and bird populations. They are also host to internal and external parasites, including Degeeriella nisus vagrans, cestods and trematodes.

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Predation

There are few natural predators of goshawks. Bubo virginianus, Accipitridae, Martes americana, Bubo bubo, and Canis lupus, have been known to prey upon goshawks, particularly nestlings, during times of low food availability.

Northern goshawks are formidable birds and will attack trespassers in their nesting territories.

Known Predators:

  • eagle owls (Bubo_bubo)
  • martens (Martes_americana)
  • wolves (Canis_lupus)
  • hawks and eagles (Accipitridae)
  • great horned owls (Bubo_virginianus)

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Ecosystem Roles

Northern goshawks are important as predators in the ecosystems in which they live, especially to small mammal and bird populations. They are also host to internal and external parasites, including lice, cestods and trematodes.

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Predation

There are few natural predators of goshawks. Great horned owls, hawks and eagles, martens, eagle owls, and wolves, have been known to prey upon goshawks, particularly nestlings, during times of low food availability.

Northern goshawks are formidable birds and will attack trespassers in their nesting territories.

Known Predators:

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Known prey organisms

  • D. I. Rasmussen, Biotic communities of Kaibab Plateau, Arizona, Ecol. Monogr. 11(3):228-275, from p. 261 (1941).
  • R. D. Bird, Biotic communities of the Aspen Parkland of central Canada, Ecology, 11:356-442, from p. 410 (1930).
  • R. D. Bird, Biotic communities of the Aspen Parkland of central Canada, Ecology, 11:356-442, from p. 406 (1930).
  • Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2006. The Animal Diversity Web (online). Accessed February 16, 2011 at http://animaldiversity.org. http://www.animaldiversity.org
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Comments: Unknown, but likely to be more than 300.

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Global Abundance

10,000 - 1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Relatively common in the main part of its range.

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General Ecology

Nesting densities of most western U.S. populations range from 6.6-10.7 pairs per 100 square kilometers (summarized in Squires and Reynolds 1997). The single nesting density estimate for the eastern U.S. is 1.17 pairs per 100 square kilometers (Kimmel and Yahner 1994, cited in Squires and Reynolds 1997). Home ranges during nesting vary from 95-3500 hectares depending on sex and habitat characteristics (Squires and Reynolds 1997). Home ranges of males are typically larger than those of females (Hargis et al. 1994, Keane and Morrison 1994, Kennedy et al. 1994). Exclusive of nesting areas, home ranges of adjacent pairs are not defended and may overlap (Squires and Reynolds 1997). The core area (encompasses nest site) constitutes 32 percent of the home range (Kennedy et al. 1994). Individuals typically enlarge or sometimes shift location of home ranges after breeding (Hargis et al. 1994, Keane and Morrison 1994).

Home ranges of non-breeders are poorly known, but may be larger than those of breeders (Squires and Reynolds 1997). In North America, winter home ranges are unknown. In Sweden, winter home-ranges of males and females were similar and averaged 5700 hectares (Widen 1989).

In California, 76.5 percent of males and 71.4 percent of females returned to the same nesting area in subsequent years. Males were significantly more likely to return to previously-inhabited territories in consecutive years than females (Detrich and Woodbridge 1994). In Arizona, 80 percent of nest areas examined in two consecutive years were re-used the second year by one or both members of the pair banded the first year (Reynolds et al. 1994). Sixty to 72 percent of adults located in consecutive years retained the mate from the previous year (Detrich and Woodbridge 1994, Reynolds et al. 1994).

Dispersal of young is not well documented. Detrich and Woodbridge (1994) recaptured two adult females, banded as nestlings 5-7 years prior, 16 and 24 kilometers from their natal sites. Three females, banded as nestlings and recaptured as breeding adults, moved an average of 21.5 kilometers from their natal sites, and another female, captured as a breeding adult seven years after being banded as a nestling, moved 100 kilometers from its natal site (Squires and Reynolds 1997).

Little is known regarding survivorship in the U.S. In Arizona, annual survivorship of male and females more than 1 year old was estimated to be 68.8 percent and 86.6 percent, respectively (Squires and Reynolds 1997). In Yukon, Canada, an observed population decline was attributed to increased mortality of eggs, nestlings, immatures and adults, as well as to dispersal following a precipitous decline in number of snowshoe hares (Doyle and Smith 1994). The maximum lifespan of a wild bird is 11 years (Squires and Reynolds 1997). The sex ratio is 1:1 prior to fledging and among adults (Mueller and Berger 1968, Reynolds et al. 1994).

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Fire Management Considerations

More info for the terms: basal area, climax, cover, fire management, fire severity, high-severity fire, ladder fuels, mixed-severity fire, prescribed fire, presence, restoration, selection, severity, tree, wildfire

The lack of scientific information predicting the positive or negative consequences of fire management on the northern goshawk has legal, scientific, and social ramifications for land management agencies attempting to implement national fire programs [45]. Managers may not have many action options to protect northern goshawks in wildfire situations, but forest management activities (e.g., prescribed fire, thinning) aimed at fuels reduction and restoring historic stand structure are widespread in areas inhabited by northern goshawks. Many agencies suggest or require the designation of a buffer around nest trees when treatments occur, but there is some debate over the appropriate buffer size and the effectiveness of this approach, particularly because northern goshawks rely on a large landscape to meet life history needs [17,26,48]. One review critiques the buffer concept because the designation of buffers of a specific size around nests forces a predetermined restriction on all forest types—which may not be appropriate—gives the impression that management is not required beyond the buffer, and ignores the multiple scales at which northern goshawks use a landscape [17]. Reynolds and others [40] recommend avoiding or minimizing direct negative impacts on individual northern goshawks by restricting treatments or activities in the breeding season, particularly when females are incubating and/or young are immobile.

Because current FIRE REGIMES and forest conditions may fall outside of the range of historic variability in some parts of the range of northern goshawks, several sources suggest thinning and/or prescribed fire to restore historical stand characteristics and/or improve habitat for northern goshawks and their prey [13,14,26,35,40,53] and to make forests more resilient to high-severity wildfires [35]. In some cases, there is concern that mechanical and/or prescribed fire treatments aimed at converting dense forests to more open stands may result in a loss of habitat for species that use mature forest, like the northern goshawk [10,49]. On the other hand, some evidence suggests that avoiding treatment in areas to protect habitat for northern goshawks may have unintended negative consequences, particularly in the presence of high-severity fire. For example, in a mixed-conifer forest on the Plumas National Forest, northern California, managers left areas designated as protected northern goshawk habitat untreated during a fuels reduction treatment. When a wildfire burned through the region, fire severity in untreated areas was higher than in treated areas, resulting in significantly higher mortality of canopy trees (P less than 0.001) [21].

One review offers management recommendations for maintaining northern goshawk habitat in several Southwest FIRE REGIMES. In areas that experience infrequent fire, managers could create small openings that mimic wind events and other small-scale disturbances that historically maintained a diverse stand structure across the landscape. Such actions would provide a variety of interspersed stand structures that would support habitat for a wide range of prey species. In areas experiencing mixed-severity FIRE REGIMES, limiting large openings to small portions of a home range can help prevent fragmentation and ensure that enough mature forest habitat and canopy cover are available for both northern goshawks and their prey. In areas experiencing high-severity fire, northern goshawks may require relatively large home ranges (>9,900 acres (4,000 ha)) to ensure enough mature forest is available to provide adequate prey. Northern goshawks may also benefit from a range of seral to climax plant communities. Given the creation of large openings, rate of forest development, and tree longevity in areas experiencing high severity fire, the proportion of the landscape in various structural stages would likely vary. Management plans in these areas would require a scope of hundreds of years and landscape-level planning [23].

For information on combining management goals to include both habitat for the northern goshawk and fuels reduction projects that improve overall ecosystem function and resiliency to high-severity wildfire, see the following sources: [13,14,23,26,35,40,53]. For information regarding using fire and silvicultural techniques to restore fire-adapted ecosystems in the Southwest, see: [23,40,53].

Northern goshawk use of treated areas: Northern goshawks have been documented occurring and breeding in areas treated for fuels reduction and/or restoration, but their response to these treatments has not been well studied. The anecdotal information presented below suggests that northern goshawks may tolerate fuels reduction activities taking place in the breeding season, but use of treated areas is variable in subsequent years. It is not clear if non-use of a treated area is due to the physical disturbance during the breeding season or the resulting changes in local stand structure. It should also be noted that the lack of northern goshawk detections at particular nests does not mean territory abandonment; use of multiple nests in a territory is common and nests may not be detected by biologists (see Nest and nest side fidelity). The information presented here is largely anecdotal and limited in scope, and may not be representative of northern goshawk response to fuels reduction and restoration treatments throughout their range.

Two fuels reduction treatments occurred in northern goshawk territories in mixed ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir forests on the Bitterroot National Forest, western Montana. The prescriptions for both treatments left 30 to 40 acres (12-16 ha) untreated immediately surrounding known northern goshawk nests. The prescription also retained 80 to 100 feet²/acre basal area of canopy trees in the postfledging family area. Thinning in one territory containing 3 known nests occurred in 2006 and 2007. A nest successfully fledged young during the 2 years of treatments. No known nesting occurred in the territory in 2008 or 2011, but young were fledged from the territory in 2009, 2010, and 2012, with 2 different nests used. Thinning in a 2nd northern goshawk territory occurred after the northern goshawk breeding season in 2011. Northern goshawks successfully fledged young in 2011 prior to thinning, and in 2012 after thinning [31].

In southwestern Montana, the US Bureau of Land Management conducted a major thinning project to remove ladder fuels in Douglas-fir forest. Low-severity surface fires and pile burning were used to consume slash on the ground. Prior to treatment, the area consisted of a structurally diverse, multiaged stand with a large component of large, mature trees. The treatment resulted in a more "park-like" and open structure, though most of the mature trees were left standing. One female goshawk twice tolerated the activities associated with this project, continuing to incubate despite the presence of an active skid trail within 98 feet (30 m) of her nest the 1st year of treatment, and a burning slash pile within 66 feet (20 m) of her nest the 2nd year of treatment. In both instances, the female did not abandon incubation duties and young were successfully fledged. However, nest location shifted between the 2 years, with the pair building a new nest in a "leave" tree remaining after the thinning occurred. Northern goshawks were not detected nesting in the treated area again, though an adjacent, untreated territory was occasionally occupied [27].

One active northern goshawk nest was discovered during a selection-harvest fuels reduction treatment in 1993 in a mixed-conifer forest on the Bitterroot National Forest, western Montana. After this discovery, a small island of trees was left surrounding the nest, and approximately 100 feet²/acre basal area of canopy trees was left in the surrounding unit. The female continued incubating, and 2 young hatched while the treatments were conducted. Though the nest successfully fledged young that year, it was not used by northern goshawks in subsequent years, presumably because of the reduction in overstory canopy cover. The nest was used by great horned owls and Cooper's hawks after treatment [31].

In mixed-conifer forests on the Lolo National Forest, western Montana, northern goshawks were detected in treated (low-severity fires and selection harvest) and untreated "old growth" stands at frequencies similar to those found throughout the area [11]. One biologist observed northern goshawks nesting for 2 years within thinned lodgepole pine forests on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, southwestern Montana [27].
  • 10. Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russell T. 2006. Goshawk status and management: what do we know, what have we done, where are we going? Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 312-325. [84260]
  • 13. Converse, Sarah J.; Block, William M.; White, Gary C. 2006. Small mammal population and habitat responses to forest thinning and prescribed fire. Forest Ecology and Management. 228(1-3): 263-273. [62635]
  • 14. Converse, Sarah J.; White, Gary C.; Farris, Kerry L.; Zack, Steve. 2006. Small mammals and forest fuel reduction: national-scale responses to fire and fire surrogates. Ecological Applications. 16(5): 1717-1729. [65278]
  • 17. DeStefano, Stephen; McGrath, Michael T.; Daw, Sonya K.; Desimone, Steven M. 2006. Ecology and habitat of breeding northern goshawks in the inland Pacific Northwest: a summary of research in the 1990s. Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 75-84. [84387]
  • 23. Graham, Russell T; Jain, Theresa B.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Boyce, Douglas A. 1997. The role of fire in sustaining northern goshawk habitat in Rocky Mountain forests. In: Greenlee, Jason M., ed. Proceedings, 1st conference on fire effects on rare and endangered species and habitats; 1995 November 13-16; Coeur d'Alene, ID. Fairfield, WA: International Association of Wildland Fire: 69-76. [28124]
  • 35. North, Malcolm; Stine, Pete; Zielinski, William; O'Hara, Kevin; Stephens, Scott. 2010. Harnessing fire for wildlife. The Wildlife Professional. 4(1): 30-33. [81864]
  • 40. Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russel T.; Reiser, M. Hildegard; Bassett, Richard L.; Kennedy, Patricia L.; Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Goodwin, Greg; Smith, Randall; Fisher, E. Leon. 1992. Management recommendations for the northern goshawk in the southwestern United States. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-217. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 90 p. [27983]
  • 45. Saab, Victoria; Block, William; Russell, Robin; Lehmkuhl, John; Bate, Lisa; White, Rachel. 2007. Birds and burns of the interior West: descriptions, habitats, and management in western forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-712. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 23 p. [69754]
  • 49. Tiedemann, Arthur R.; Klemmedson, James O.; Bull, Evelyn L. 2000. Solution of forest health problems with prescribed fire: are forest productivity and wildlife at risk? Forest Ecology and Management. 127(1-3): 1-18. [36435]
  • 53. Youtz, James A.; Graham, Russell T.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Simon, Jerry. 2007. Implementing northern goshawk Habitat management in southwestern forests: a template for restoring fire-adapted forest ecosystems. In: Deal, R. L., ed. Proceedings of the 2007 national silviculture workshop. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-733. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 173-191. [73716]
  • 11. Brewer, Lorraine; Erickson, Bruce; Kennedy, Beth; Partyka, Chris; Slaughter, Steve; Wrobleski, Dave. 2008. Effects of silvicultural treatments on old growth characteristics and associated wildlife habitat: Preliminary findings of the Lolo National Forest's 2006-2010 old growth monitoring study. Monitoring Paper. Missoula, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Lolo National Forest. 25 p. [+ appendices]. [82402]
  • 21. Fites, Jo Ann; Campbell, Mike; Reiner, Alicia; Decker, Todd. 2007. Fire behavior and effects relating to suppression, fuel treatments, and protected areas on the Antelope Complex Wheeler Fire. Sacramento, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region. 41 p. [74740]
  • 26. Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentiles atricapillus): a technical conservation assessment, [Online]. Golden, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region (Producer). 142 p. Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/projects/scp/assessments/northerngoshawk.pdf [2012, February 9]. [84509]
  • 27. Kirkley, Jack. 2012. [Email to Kate Stone]. July 5. Regarding northern goshawk responses to fire and fuels treatments. Dillon, MT: University of Montana--Western, Biology Department. On file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; FEIS files. [86301]
  • 31. Lockman, Dave. 2012. [Email to Kate Stone]. November 1. Regarding northern goshawk response to fire and fuels treatment. Hamilton, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Bitterroot National Forest, North Zone Biologist. On file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; FEIS files. [86300]
  • 48. Squires, John R.; Reynolds, Richard T. 1997. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), [Online]. Issue No. 298. In: Poole, A., ed. The birds of North America Online. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Producer). Available: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/298 [2012, November 30]. [84032]

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Fire Regimes

More info for the terms: density, fire exclusion, fire management, fire regime, frequency, mixed-severity fire, severity, stand-replacement fire

Because of their broad distribution, northern goshawks occur in plant communities that experience a wide range of FIRE REGIMES, including FIRE REGIMES characterized by low-severity, mixed-severity, or stand-replacement fire. Return intervals may be short to long. In the western United States, fire creates a landscape mosaic capable of supporting northern goshawk populations. Northern goshawks and their prey have historically had exposure and adapted to forest conditions maintained by a variety of FIRE REGIMES, including nonlethal surface, mixed-severity, mosaic, and stand-replacement fire [23]. However, several reviews discuss how FIRE REGIMES within the range of the northern goshawks have shifted away from historic patterns due to fire exclusion and other anthropogenic practices [10,12,23,30,32,40,51]. Changes in the frequency and severity of fire have resulted in shifts in forest composition and structure, which may impact northern goshawks and their prey [26]. Documented forest changes that may result from fire exclusion and other anthropogenic practices include reduced stand structural diversity [32], increased stand density [12,32,40,51], increased understory density [12,40], and changes in species composition [40,51]. Such forest structural and compositional changes may limit the mobility and hunting success of northern goshawks [19] and cause changes to prey populations and diversity [12,19,40]. In some cases, forest structural and compositional changes may increase the probability of high-severity fires [40,51], which would reduce the amount of mature forest on the landscape [10,40], eliminate nesting habitat, and create forest openings larger than what occurred historically [19]. Though these forest changes are generally discussed in the literature as reducing habitat for northern goshawks, it is possible that forest changes in some areas may improve habitat for northern goshawks.

One review discusses how several FIRE REGIMES typical of Southwestern forests may have influenced northern goshawk populations in the region. Nonlethal, low-severity surface fires in ponderosa pine forests would "clean" the forest, providing suitable foraging habitat and open canopies that enabled northern goshawks to successfully access prey. Large trees would eventually die from lightning, disease, or insects and provide snags or coarse woody debris, habitat features important to northern goshawk prey. These fires would gradually consume downed logs, but not before the logs contributed to habitat for prey species and added organic matter to the soil. The small openings left would allow for the regeneration of new trees. Mixed-severity FIRE REGIMES in relatively moist coniferous forests would create larger openings (>4 acres (2 ha)), greater amounts of coarse woody debris, and multiple canopy layers compared to less severe fires. These fires could create openings of all sizes, leading to a mosaic of forest structural conditions across the landscape. Large openings would likely not provide ideal northern goshawk foraging habitat, but the edges of these openings might be used. Large forest openings may have been historically important for maintaining seral quaking aspen stands, an important component of many northern goshawk home ranges in this region. Forests maintained by high-severity fires may have limited value as northern goshawk habitat because they result in large (>24 acres (10 ha)) openings and/or an even-aged structure across a large landscape [23]. For management recommendations pertaining to these and other FIRE REGIMES throughout the range of the northern goshawk, see Fire Management Considerations.

The Fire Regime Table summarizes characteristics of FIRE REGIMES for vegetation communities in which northern goshawks may occur. Follow the links in the table to documents that provide more detailed information on these FIRE REGIMES. Northern goshawks also occur in geographic areas not covered by the Fire Regime Table, including a variety of boreal plant communities in Alaska and Canada, as well as forested plant communities in Mexico.

FEIS also provides reviews of many of the prey species important to the life history and habitat use of northern goshawks. See FEIS reviews for additional information—including information on FIRE REGIMES and fire effects on species including: Abert's squirrel, Townsend's ground squirrel, eastern cottontail, black-tailed jackrabbit, snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse, gray jay, and black-backed woodpecker.

  • 10. Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russell T. 2006. Goshawk status and management: what do we know, what have we done, where are we going? Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 312-325. [84260]
  • 12. Clough, Lorraine T. 2000. Nesting habitat selection and productivity of northern goshawks in west-central Montana. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. 87 p. Thesis. [84583]
  • 19. Dodd, Norris L. 1988. Fire management and southwestern raptors. In: Glinski, Richard L.; Pendleton, Beth Giron; Moss, Mary Beth; LeFranc, M. N., Jr.; Millsap, B. A.; Hoffman, S. W., eds. Proceedings of the southwest raptor management symposium and workshop; 1986 May 21-24; Tucson, AZ. NWF Scientific and Technical Series No. 11. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation: 341-347. [22648]
  • 23. Graham, Russell T; Jain, Theresa B.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Boyce, Douglas A. 1997. The role of fire in sustaining northern goshawk habitat in Rocky Mountain forests. In: Greenlee, Jason M., ed. Proceedings, 1st conference on fire effects on rare and endangered species and habitats; 1995 November 13-16; Coeur d'Alene, ID. Fairfield, WA: International Association of Wildland Fire: 69-76. [28124]
  • 30. Lehman, Robert N.; Allendorf, John W. 1989. The effects of fire, fire exclusion and fire management on raptor habitats in the western United States. In: Pendleton, B. G., ed. Proceedings of the western raptor management symposium and workshop; 1987 October 26-28; Boise, ID. Scientific and Technical Series No. 12. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation: 236-244. [22324]
  • 32. Long, James N.; Smith, Frederick W. 2000. Restructuring the forest: Goshawks and the restoring of southwestern ponderosa pine. Journal of Forestry. 98(8): 25-30. [38866]
  • 40. Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russel T.; Reiser, M. Hildegard; Bassett, Richard L.; Kennedy, Patricia L.; Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Goodwin, Greg; Smith, Randall; Fisher, E. Leon. 1992. Management recommendations for the northern goshawk in the southwestern United States. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-217. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 90 p. [27983]
  • 51. Woodbridge, Brian; Detrich, Phillip J. 1994. Territory occupancy and habitat patch size of northern goshawks in the southern Cascades of California. Studies in Avian Biology. 16: 83-87. [84190]
  • 26. Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentiles atricapillus): a technical conservation assessment, [Online]. Golden, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region (Producer). 142 p. Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/projects/scp/assessments/northerngoshawk.pdf [2012, February 9]. [84509]

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Indirect Effects of Fire

More info for the terms: fire severity, high-severity fire, low-severity fire, natural, prescribed fire, severity, stand-replacement fire, stand-replacing fire, tree, wildfire

As of this writing (2012), there was little documentation of the indirect effects of fire on northern goshawk individuals or populations. Presumably, the occurrence, extent, and severity of fire could have major impacts on small- and large-scale forest structure which in turn may affect the suitability of an area for life history activities such as breeding and foraging. Effects may be positive or negative and could vary regionally.

A review of the effects of fire on raptor populations suggests that the most significant effect is the modification and/or destruction of habitat. Habitat losses can include small-scale losses like an individual nest tree or a roost site or large-scale losses like the elimination of a foraging area [30]. However, fire may also modify the landscape in ways that improve habitat for northern goshawks (e.g., the creation of a mosaic of stand structures).

Northern goshawk populations have long been exposed to wildfire as a natural disturbance process [23], and some sources suggest that northern goshawks can adjust to changing environmental conditions [10,26]. Northern goshawks exhibit some life history characteristics that make them adaptable to landscape disturbances such as fire. They maintain a large breeding territory that contains several nest sites, so if one nest site is altered or destroyed, they may have other nearby options (see Nest and nest site fidelity). Though most sources report the use of mature forests for nesting, northern goshawks occasionally nest in areas with few trees or in small forest patches [10]. Northern goshawks use a variety of forest structures when foraging [23,26], and though they often rely heavily on mature forest while foraging [3,10,17], they also forage in young forests, edges, and openings [10,17,43] (see Foraging habitat).

Indirect fire effects on nesting: Fire may consume northern goshawk nests, nest stands, and/or breeding territories. A review suggests that stand-replacement wildfire could reduce the suitability of an area for northern goshawk nesting and create forest openings larger than what occurred historically [19].

Two biologists working with northern goshawks in Montana provided observations of fire effects on northern goshawk nesting. It should be noted that these observations are anecdotal and may not be representative of northern goshawk response to fire throughout its range.

One biologist studied northern goshawk nest and territory occupancy over many years in lodgepole pine forests on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, southwestern Montana. A stand-replacing wildfire in 2007 burned 2 historical northern goshawk territories, though the territories were not occupied in the years prior to the fire. The fire resulted in a reduction of suitable nesting habitat, leaving a patchy distribution of unburned forest amidst largely open meadows. Three and 4 years after the fire, northern goshawks nested in an unburned patch of forest midway between the historical territories. These observations show that northern goshawks can shift to remaining suitable nesting stands even when stand-replacing fire has consumed most of the vegetation in an area [27].

A 2nd biologist observed that high-severity wildfires occurring in mixed-conifer forests on the Bitterroot National Forest, western Montana, in August of 2000 consumed 2 known northern goshawk territories and several nests, 1 of which was active 2 weeks prior to the fire. The young in this nest were presumed dead, though it is possible they were able to fly well enough to escape the area. The landscapes surrounding both territories experienced extensive stand-replacement fire, and local biologists described the territories as unsuitable for northern goshawk nesting in the years following fire [31].

Low-severity fires may result in nest abandonment, though not always immediately. In one area on the Bitterroot National Forest, western Montana, a low-severity fire in August of 2000 consumed most of the forest understory but left the overstory intact. The fire killed most of the trees in the sapling and intermediate layers as well as many Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) in the overstory via bole scorch, but almost all of the Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) survived. Douglas-fir beetles (Dendroctonus pseudotsugae) began causing overstory canopy mortality by 2002, with many trees exhibiting red needles by the summer of 2003. Northern goshawks nested in the stand prior to fire and continued to nest and successfully fledge young in the stand for several years after the fire, though biologists found a new and different active nest each year from 2001 to 2004. The nesting area was eventually abandoned; none of the 4 known nests were active in 2005, 2006, or 2007, though it is possible that other nests were constructed in the area and not found. Local biologists suspected the area was abandoned because canopy closure decreased as overstory mortality increased [31].

In another area on the Bitterroot National Forest, western Montana, burned by low-severity fire in 2000, a northern goshawk nest tree was killed, but much of the surrounding nest stand was not killed. The nest was abandoned and eventually fell out of the tree. In other instances where nest stands were burned by low-severity fire in 2000, the canopies around the nests gradually thinned out as surrounding trees died, and the nests were not used again. However, in all instances, biologists were unable to determine if northern goshawks left the area completely or if they shifted to unlocated nests within the territory [31].

Indirect fire effects on foraging: The effect of fire on foraging habitat likely varies with fire severity and extent across a landscape. For example, an extensive, high-severity fire that results in major canopy and understory mortality may result in poor habitat for some prey species for many years after fire. The dense regeneration that may follow stand-replacing fire in some forest types (e.g., lodgepole pine) may inhibit the ability of northern goshawks to detect prey. A fire that creates a mosaic of forest structures and openings may offer northern goshawks a variety of foraging opportunities and provide habitat for a wide range of prey species. Since open understories may enhance the detection of prey items, low-severity fires that consume the understory but maintain a live overstory may create foraging opportunities [3,40,43]. The impact of fire on foraging habitat may be greater in the breeding season, when northern goshawks are tied to a nest and breeding territory, than in the winter, when individuals are more flexible in how far and where they travel to forage and use a wider range of habitats (see Foraging habitat).

Northern goshawk occurrence in burned areas: To date (2012), the documentation of northern goshawks occurring in burned areas is rare and largely incidental, making generalizations difficult. Between 1 and 3 years after a low- to moderate-severity prescribed fire in northern Arizona, one northern goshawk was detected during winter point counts [38,39]. One northern goshawk was detected on the ecotone between burned and unburned lodgepole pine forest 8 years after a high-severity wildfire in north-central Colorado [44]. In mixed-conifer forests on the Lolo National Forest, western Montana, one northern goshawk responded to a playback call in the breeding season in an area treated approximately 10 years previously by a low-severity "ecosystem burn" aimed at retaining the stand's old growth characteristics [11]. In central Alaska, a northern goshawk was killed by an American marten in boreal forest burned approximately 25 years previously. The forest was in a midsuccessional stage of dense tree regeneration, though some severely burned lowlands were in an earlier shrub-sapling stage. Mature forest in the area was primarily black spruce (Picea mariana) and tamarack (Larix laricina) [36]. Three years after mixed-severity wildfires in a ponderosa pine forest in Arizona, researchers detected 2 northern goshawks in an unburned area adjacent to burned forest while conducting point counts in the nonbreeding season. Northern goshawks were not detected in any area (unburned, moderately burned, severely burned) in the breeding season or in severely or moderately burned forest in the nonbreeding season [8].

  • 3. Andersen, David E.; DeStefano, Stephen; Goldstein, Michael I.; Titus, Kimberly; Crocker-Bedford, Cole; Keane, John J.; Anthony, Robert G.; Rosenfield, Robert N. 2005. Technical review of the status of northern goshawks in the western United States. Journal of Raptor Research. 39(3): 192-209. [84132]
  • 8. Bock, Carl E.; Block, William M. 2005. Response of birds to fire in the American Southwest. In: Ralph, C. John; Rich, Terrell D., eds. Bird conservation implementation and integration in the Americas: proceedings of the 3rd international Partners in Flight conference: Vol. 2; 2002 March 20-24; Asilomar, CA. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-191. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station: 1093-1099. [61162]
  • 10. Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russell T. 2006. Goshawk status and management: what do we know, what have we done, where are we going? Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 312-325. [84260]
  • 17. DeStefano, Stephen; McGrath, Michael T.; Daw, Sonya K.; Desimone, Steven M. 2006. Ecology and habitat of breeding northern goshawks in the inland Pacific Northwest: a summary of research in the 1990s. Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 75-84. [84387]
  • 19. Dodd, Norris L. 1988. Fire management and southwestern raptors. In: Glinski, Richard L.; Pendleton, Beth Giron; Moss, Mary Beth; LeFranc, M. N., Jr.; Millsap, B. A.; Hoffman, S. W., eds. Proceedings of the southwest raptor management symposium and workshop; 1986 May 21-24; Tucson, AZ. NWF Scientific and Technical Series No. 11. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation: 341-347. [22648]
  • 23. Graham, Russell T; Jain, Theresa B.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Boyce, Douglas A. 1997. The role of fire in sustaining northern goshawk habitat in Rocky Mountain forests. In: Greenlee, Jason M., ed. Proceedings, 1st conference on fire effects on rare and endangered species and habitats; 1995 November 13-16; Coeur d'Alene, ID. Fairfield, WA: International Association of Wildland Fire: 69-76. [28124]
  • 30. Lehman, Robert N.; Allendorf, John W. 1989. The effects of fire, fire exclusion and fire management on raptor habitats in the western United States. In: Pendleton, B. G., ed. Proceedings of the western raptor management symposium and workshop; 1987 October 26-28; Boise, ID. Scientific and Technical Series No. 12. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation: 236-244. [22324]
  • 36. Paragi, Thomas F.; Johnson, W. N.; Katnik, Donald D.; Magoun, Audrey J. 1996. Marten selection of postfire seres in the Alaskan taiga. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 74: 2226-2237. [28567]
  • 38. Pope, Theresa L. 2006. Effects of prescribed fire on wintering bark-foraging birds in northern Arizona. Flagstaff, AZ: Northern Arizona University. 70 p. Thesis. [73498]
  • 39. Pope, Theresa L.; Block, William M. 2010. Effects of prescribed fire on winter assemblages of birds in pondersa pine forests of northern Arizona. The Southwestern Naturalist. 55(1): 22-28. [80632]
  • 40. Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russel T.; Reiser, M. Hildegard; Bassett, Richard L.; Kennedy, Patricia L.; Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Goodwin, Greg; Smith, Randall; Fisher, E. Leon. 1992. Management recommendations for the northern goshawk in the southwestern United States. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-217. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 90 p. [27983]
  • 43. Roberson, Aimee M.; Andersen, David E.; Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. The northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) in the western Great Lakes region: a technical conservation assessment. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, Minnesota Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit. 91 p. [84982]
  • 44. Roppe, Jerry A.; Hein, Dale. 1978. Effects of fire on wildlife in a lodgepole pine forest. The Southwestern Naturalist. 23(2): 279-287. [261]
  • 11. Brewer, Lorraine; Erickson, Bruce; Kennedy, Beth; Partyka, Chris; Slaughter, Steve; Wrobleski, Dave. 2008. Effects of silvicultural treatments on old growth characteristics and associated wildlife habitat: Preliminary findings of the Lolo National Forest's 2006-2010 old growth monitoring study. Monitoring Paper. Missoula, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Lolo National Forest. 25 p. [+ appendices]. [82402]
  • 26. Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentiles atricapillus): a technical conservation assessment, [Online]. Golden, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region (Producer). 142 p. Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/projects/scp/assessments/northerngoshawk.pdf [2012, February 9]. [84509]
  • 27. Kirkley, Jack. 2012. [Email to Kate Stone]. July 5. Regarding northern goshawk responses to fire and fuels treatments. Dillon, MT: University of Montana--Western, Biology Department. On file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; FEIS files. [86301]
  • 31. Lockman, Dave. 2012. [Email to Kate Stone]. November 1. Regarding northern goshawk response to fire and fuels treatment. Hamilton, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Bitterroot National Forest, North Zone Biologist. On file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; FEIS files. [86300]

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Direct Effects of Fire

More info for the term: wildfire

A review of the effects of fire on raptor populations suggests that direct mortality from fire is rare [30]. Adult northern goshawks are highly mobile and consequently are probably able to flee an approaching fire. Mortality from fire is most likely to occur during the breeding season when nestlings are unable to flee an approaching fire [30]. One wildlife biologist in western Montana thought a high-severity wildfire in August might have killed 2 northern goshawk nestlings observed 2 weeks prior to the fire [31].

Fire in the spring and summer may disrupt the breeding of northern goshawks.

  • 30. Lehman, Robert N.; Allendorf, John W. 1989. The effects of fire, fire exclusion and fire management on raptor habitats in the western United States. In: Pendleton, B. G., ed. Proceedings of the western raptor management symposium and workshop; 1987 October 26-28; Boise, ID. Scientific and Technical Series No. 12. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation: 236-244. [22324]
  • 31. Lockman, Dave. 2012. [Email to Kate Stone]. November 1. Regarding northern goshawk response to fire and fuels treatment. Hamilton, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Bitterroot National Forest, North Zone Biologist. On file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; FEIS files. [86300]

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Life History

More info for the terms: cover, density, dispersion, tree

Description: The northern goshawk is a large forest hawk with long, broad wings and a long, rounded tail. Females average 24 inches (61 cm) in length, 41 to 45 inches (105-115 cm) in wingspan, and 30 to 45 ounces (860-1,264 g) in mass, while the smaller males average 22 inches (55 cm) in length, 39 to 41 inches (98-104 cm) in wingspan, and 22 to 39 ounces (631-1,099 g) in mass [48].

Adult northern goshawks are brown-gray to slate-gray on top. The head has a black cap and a pronounced white superciliary line. Underparts are light gray with some black streaking. The tail is dark gray above with 3 to 5 inconspicuous broad, dark bands, and sometimes a thin white terminal band. Juveniles are generally brown on top and have brown streaking on the chest [48].

Adult (left) and juvenile (right) northern goshawks. Photos by Jack Kirkley.

Life span: Based on band recoveries at trapping sites, the maximum life span of wild northern goshawks is at least 11 years [48]. One review reports a captive northern goshawk living 19 years [26].

Age at first breeding: Northern goshawks may breed as subadults (1-2 years old), young adults (2-3 years old), or adults (≥3 years old). Females are more likely than males to breed at a young age [48].

Home range: In North America, home range in the breeding season ranges from 1,400 to 8,600 acres (570-3,500 ha) [48]. Home range size varies depending on sex [26,48], season [48], local prey availability, climate [7], and habitat characteristics [7,26,48]. The male's home range is generally larger than the female's. Within a home range, individuals often have core-use areas that include the nest and primary foraging areas. Outside of a nesting area, the home range of a breeding pair may not be defended and may overlap with the home range of adjacent pairs. The shape of a home range may vary from circular to linear or may be discontinuous, depending on local habitat characteristics [48].

Nesting phenology: Northern goshawk pairs occupy nesting areas from February to early April. Some pairs may remain in their nesting areas year-round. Nest construction may begin as soon as individuals return to their territories. Eggs are laid anywhere from mid-April to early May. Cold, wet springs may delay incubation. Incubation varies from 28 to 37 days. Nestlings move from nests to nearby branches when they are around 34 to 35 days of age. Their first flight from the nest tree ranges from 35 to 36 days for males and 40 to 42 days for females. They reach independence approximately 70 days from hatching. Most fledglings disperse from the nest area between 65 and 90 days after hatching, with females dispersing later than males [48].

Clutch size: Northern goshawks usually produce one clutch per year. Clutch size is usually 2 to 4, but occasionally 1 or 5 eggs. Because northern goshawk chicks hatch asynchronously, older, larger nestlings may attack smaller, younger nestlings [48].

Northern goshawk female with young.

Nest success and productivity: Northern goshawk nest success and productivity vary and may be limited by prey availability [6,46,48], weather [26,48], predation [7,26], disease [26], habitat features [24], and disturbance from timber harvest or other human activities [26,48].

In North America, nest success usually ranges from 80% to 94%, with most successful nests producing an average of 2.0 to 2.8 fledglings. Unsuccessful nests usually fail early in the breeding season, before or soon after laying. Weather, particularly cold temperatures in the spring and exposure to low temperatures and rain, may cause egg and chick mortality. Once chicks reach 3 weeks of age, nests rarely fail. Productivity may differ between years in the same study area and among landscapes within a limited geographic area. The availability of prey strongly affects nest occupancy and productivity. The age of the female may also affect productivity; pairs with a younger female may produce fewer fledglings than pairs with an older female. If food resources are low, siblicide and cannibalism may occur [48].

Nest description: The northern goshawk constructs a nest of thin sticks, forming a bowl lined with tree bark and greenery. Nests are usually placed on large horizontal limbs against the trunk, or occasionally on large limbs away from the bole. A variety of tree species is used for nesting [48].

Northern goshawk nest in western Montana.

Nest site: Northern goshawks build nests in both deciduous and coniferous trees. They typically use the largest tree in a nest stand. Nest height varies by tree species and regional tree characteristics. The size and structure of a nest tree may be more important than species. Northern goshawks occasionally build nests on dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium spp.) clumps and rarely in dead trees [48]. Several reviews provide lists of specific tree species used by northern goshawks for nesting throughout their range [48] and in the Great Lakes region [7] and central Rocky Mountains [26].

Nest and nest site fidelity: Northern goshawks may use the same nest for consecutive years, but they usually alternate between 2 or more nests within a nest area. They may maintain as many as 8 alternate nests within a nest area. It is thought that most nest sites are occupied from 1 to 3 years, though some may be occupied much longer. Though the importance of alternate nest maintenance is not completely understood, it is hypothesized that nest switching reduces exposure to diseases and parasites. This behavior complicates the determination of nest-site fidelity because it is difficult for biologists to locate all alternative nests [48]. A synthesis of 5 studies correlating nest occupancy with habitat features found a consistently positive relationship between closed-canopy forests with large trees and northern goshawk nest occupancy. Occupancy rates were reduced by removing forest cover in the home range, which thereby resulted in reduced productivity because there were fewer active breeding territories [24].

Dispersal: Natal dispersal of the northern goshawk had not been well studied as of this writing (2012). One review notes that very few (24 of 452) fledglings in an Arizona study were recruited into the local breeding population, and mean natal dispersal distance was 9.1 (SD 5.1) miles (14.7 (SD 8.2) km) (range 2.1-22.6 miles (3.4-36.3 km)) [26]

Mate fidelity: Northern goshawks may show high mate fidelity. A study from northern California found that over 9 years, 72% of the adults located in subsequent years (18 of 25 instances) retained the mate from the previous year [18].

Density: Northern goshawk populations occur at low densities compared to many bird species [43]. One review reports that regular territory dispersion is a consistent characteristic of northern goshawk populations that likely results from territorial behavior. In North America, mean nearest neighbor distances range from 1.9 to 3.5 miles (3.0-5.6 km) [26], and density estimates range from less than 1 to 11 pairs per 100 km². Densities in the range of 10 to 11 occupied nests per 100 km² were reported for 3 study areas in Arizona, California, and the Yukon. However, nest density across a landscape is difficult to determine and often based on either assumed censuses of breeding pairs or the distribution of nearest neighbor distances. Because most searches for nests are conducted in what is predetermined to be "suitable" habitat, reported densities may not accurately reflect the number of territories per unit area. Surveys may also be incomplete or inaccurate [26].

Migration: The northern goshawk is considered a partial migrant. Some individuals, particularly those that inhabit northern latitudes, may migrate long distances. Other individuals make short winter movements to lower elevations and/or more open plant communities. Food availability in the winter may influence the degree to which individuals or populations migrate [40,48].

Predation and mortality: Northern goshawks are vulnerable to predation from red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), short-eared owls (Asio flammeus), great horned owls (Bubo virginianus), American martens (Martes americana) [48], fishers (M. pennanti) [7], wolverines (Gulo gulo) [48], coyotes (Canis latrans), bobcats (Lynx rufus), and northern raccoons (Procyon lotor) [40]. It is likely that other mammals prey on nestlings and/or adults [48]. In the Great Lakes region, great horned owls were the most common nest predator [7]. Other potential sources of northern goshawk mortality include starvation, disease, shooting, trapping, poisoning, and collisions with vehicles [48].

Interspecific competition: Reduction and fragmentation of mature forest habitat may favor early-successional competitors such as red-tailed hawks and great horned owls and reduce occupancy of an area by northern goshawks [26]. One study from California found great horned owls, long-eared owls (Asio otus), spotted owls (Strix occidentalis), red-tailed hawks, and Cooper's hawks (Accipiter cooperii) occupying traditional northern goshawk nests or nest stands, but the territories were usually not abandoned entirely by northern goshawks. In 3 instances, however, northern goshawks moved out of their traditional nest stand after it was occupied by spotted owls [51].

Great gray owls (Strix nebulosa) using a nest formerly used by northern goshawks.

Population dynamics: Factors limiting northern goshawk populations may include food availability [10,26,40,48], availability of nest sites [40], and territoriality [26]. Food availability is more of an issue in northern latitudes, where northern goshawks are more dependent on populations of few species (e.g., snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus)). There is less evidence of population fluctuations in response to food in lower latitudes, where a greater variety of prey species are available [40,43]. See Population status for more information on how stand and landscape characteristics may influence northern goshawk populations.

  • 6. Beier, Paul; Rogan, Erik C.; Ingraldi, Michael F.; Rosenstock, Steven S. 2008. Does forest structure affect reproduction of northern goshawks in ponderosa pine forests? Journal of Applied Ecology. 45: 342-350. [84189]
  • 7. Boal, Clint W.; Andersen, David E.; Kennedy, Patricia L.; Roberson, Aimee M. 2006. Northern goshawk ecology in the western Great Lakes region. Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 126-134. [84224]
  • 10. Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russell T. 2006. Goshawk status and management: what do we know, what have we done, where are we going? Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 312-325. [84260]
  • 18. Dietrich, Phillip J.; Woodbridge, Brian. 1994. Territory fidelity, mate fidelity, and movements of color-marked northern goshawks in the southern Cascades of California. Studies in Avian Biology. 16: 130-132. [84220]
  • 24. Greenwald, D. Noah; Crocker-Bedford, D. Coleman; Broberg, Len; Suckling, Kieran; Tibbitts, Timothy. 2005. A review of northern goshawk habitat selection in the home range and implications for forest management in the western United States. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 33(1): 120-129. [84508]
  • 40. Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russel T.; Reiser, M. Hildegard; Bassett, Richard L.; Kennedy, Patricia L.; Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Goodwin, Greg; Smith, Randall; Fisher, E. Leon. 1992. Management recommendations for the northern goshawk in the southwestern United States. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-217. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 90 p. [27983]
  • 43. Roberson, Aimee M.; Andersen, David E.; Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. The northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) in the western Great Lakes region: a technical conservation assessment. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, Minnesota Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit. 91 p. [84982]
  • 46. Salafsky, Susan Rebecca. 2004. Covariation between prey abundance and northern goshawk fecundity on the Kaibab Plateau, Arizona. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University. 39 p. Thesis. [61352]
  • 51. Woodbridge, Brian; Detrich, Phillip J. 1994. Territory occupancy and habitat patch size of northern goshawks in the southern Cascades of California. Studies in Avian Biology. 16: 83-87. [84190]
  • 26. Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentiles atricapillus): a technical conservation assessment, [Online]. Golden, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region (Producer). 142 p. Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/projects/scp/assessments/northerngoshawk.pdf [2012, February 9]. [84509]
  • 48. Squires, John R.; Reynolds, Richard T. 1997. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), [Online]. Issue No. 298. In: Poole, A., ed. The birds of North America Online. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Producer). Available: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/298 [2012, November 30]. [84032]

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Fire Regime Table

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Goshawks, like other Accipitridae, depend upon vocalizations for communication in their forested habitats. They are especially vocal during courtship and nesting. Both sexes make equally varied sounds, however, the female's sounds are deeper and louder, while male goshawks tend to have higher and less powerful voices. There are also several specific calls, or wails, given by goshawks.

As nestlings, young goshawks may use a "whistle-beg" call as a plea for food. It begins as a ke-ke-ke noise, and progresses to a kakking sound. The chick may also use a high pitched "contentment-twitter" when it is well fed.

As adults, goshawks vocalize by way of wail-calls, which consist of "ki-ki-ki-ki" or "kak, kak, kak". This call varies with the action it represents. A "recognition-wail" is made by both males and females when entering or leaving the nest. A "food-transfer" call, which is harsh sounding, is made by males to demand food from the female.

Northern goshawks also use postures and other physical cues to communicate.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Communication and Perception

Goshawks, like other accipiters, depend upon vocalizations for communication in their forested habitats. They are especially vocal during courtship and nesting. Both sexes make equally varied sounds, however, the female's sounds are deeper and louder, while male goshawks tend to have higher and less powerful voices. There are also several specific calls, or wails, given by goshawks.

As nestlings, young goshawks may use a "whistle-beg" call as a plea for food. It begins as a ke-ke-ke noise, and progresses to a kakking sound. The chick may also use a high pitched "contentment-twitter" when it is well fed.

As adults, goshawks vocalize by way of wail-calls, which consist of "ki-ki-ki-ki" or "kak, kak, kak". This call varies with the action it represents. A "recognition-wail" is made by both males and females when entering or leaving the nest. A "food-transfer" call, which is harsh sounding, is made by males to demand food from the female.

Northern goshawks also use postures and other physical cues to communicate.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

There is little data on life span and survival of goshawks. One study found that the average length of survival for northern goshawks is about 10.7 months. Maximum lifespan is believed to be at least 11 years. Females have a higher rate of survival, mainly due to their larger size, which gives them an advantage during the winter months.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
19.8 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
11 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
10.7 months.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
196 months.

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Lifespan/Longevity

There is little data on life span and survival of goshawks. The average survival, based upon small banding return samples, is 10.7 months. Maximum lifespan has also been neglected in research, but it is believed to be at least 11 years. Females have a higher rate of survival, mainly due to their larger body mass, which gives them an advantage during the winter months.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
19.8 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
11 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
10.7 months.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
196 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 19.8 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Usually one clutch produced per year, from late April through early May (Squire and Reynolds 1997); however, some individuals may not breed during cold, wet springs (DeStefano et al. 1994). Egg-laying may begin later at higher elevations and during cold, wet springs (Henny et al. 1985, Younk and Bechard 1994). Clutch is typically two to four eggs, rarely one to five (Squires and Reynolds 1997). Average clutch size of 44 North American clutches is 2.7 eggs (Apfelbaum and Seelbach 1983 cited in Squires and Reynolds 1997). Eggs are laid every two to three days and incubation usually begins after the second egg is laid. Incubation, conducted principally by the female, takes 28-38 days; hatching is asynchronous.

Few data regarding hatching success. In Oregon, hatching success in five nests was 81 percent (Reynolds and Wight 1978 cited in Squires and Reynolds 1997). Nest success (percentage of active nests that fledge greater than one young) in North America ranges from 44-94 percent and most populations produce 2-2.8 fledglings per successful nest (summarized in Squires and Reynolds 1997).

Egg/nestling mortality has been attributed to exposure to cold and rain and siblicide (Boal and Bacorn 1994, Squires and Reynolds 1997). In northern Wisconsin, nest success dropped from 94 percent to 62 percent due to an increase in predation of nest contents and adult females by fishers. Increased predation by fishers was attributed to an increase in the fisher population and nest exposure due to tree defoliation by forest tent caterpillars (MALACOSOMA DISSTRIA; Erdman et al. 1998).

Brooding and feeding of nestlings is performed principally by the female; the male brings food to the nest. The young begin flying at 35-42 days and become independent at about 70 days (Boal 1994, Squires and Reynolds 1997). Maintain one to eight alternate nests within a nest area (Squire and Reynolds 1997). Alternate nests range from 15-2066 meters apart (Reynolds and Wight 1978, cited in Squires and Reynolds 1997; Woodbridge and Detrich 1994). The average distance between nests of nearest neighboring pairs in Arizona was 3 kilometers (range = 1.6-6.4 kilometers; Reynolds et al. 1994). A small percentage (less than 10 percent) of subadults (1-2 years old) are sexually mature; however, most breeding birds are young adults (2-3 years old) or adults (Squires and Reynolds 1997). Nesting by subadults is more frequent in expanding populations and less frequent in stable populations (Reynolds and Wight 1978, cited in Squires and Reynolds 1997).

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When trying to find a mate, female goshawks will attract males in the area by performing "sky dances" and calling, or by perching in the nesting area and calling. Once she finds a mate, the two goshawks will build a new nest or rebuild an old nest. During this time they will try to mate many times a day.

Male and female goshawks typically maintain a life-long pair bond. They will only look for a new mate if their mate dies.

Mating System: monogamous

Northern goshawks breed once per year between early April and mid-June. A mating pair of northern goshawks begins to prepare their nest as early as two months before laying eggs. Typically, the nest is located in an old growth forest, near the trunk of a medium to large tree and near openings in the forest such as roads, swamps, and meadows. Their nests are usually about one meter (39.4 inches) wide and one-half to one meter (19.7 to 39.4 inches) high, and are made of dead twigs, and lined with leafy green twigs or bunches of conifer needles and pieces of bark.

The female goshawk lays two to four eggs, two to three days apart. The eggs are rough textured, bluish-white, 59 milimeters long and 45 milimeters wide. The eggs begin to hatch within 28 to 38 days of laying. Incubation of the eggs is mostly done by the female, but the male will sometimes take her place to allow the her to hunt and eat. Nestlings stay at the nest until they are 34 to 35 days old, when they begin to move to nearby branches in the same tree. They may begin to fly when they are 35 to 46 days old. Juvenile fledglings may be fed by their parents until they are about 70 days old.

Breeding interval: Northern goshawks breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Breeding usually occurs between early April and mid-June, with peak activity occurring at the end of April through May.

Range eggs per season: 2 to 4.

Range time to hatching: 28 to 38 days.

Range fledging age: 34 to 35 days.

Average time to independence: 70 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 to 3 minutes.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 to 3 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average eggs per season: 3.

Female goshawks do the majority of egg incubation, but occasionally males will incubate the eggs to allow the female to hunt and eat. After the clutch has hatched, the female will not leave the nesting area until the nestlings are 25 days old. During this time the male is the primary provider of food for the female and her nestlings. When the nestlings reach 25 days old, the female will leave them for periods of time to hunt with the male.

When nestling goshawks reach 35 to 42 days old, they begin to move to branches close to the nest. Soon after this, practice flights begin to occur. Often fledglings participate in "play" which is thought to allow them to practice hunting skills which will be needed throughout their lives.

Young goshawks leave the nest about 34 or 35 days after hatching. They usually stay in the area of the nest until their feathers are completely developed. This happens about 70 days after they hatch. Most goshawks are completely independent by the time they are 95 days old.

Young goshawks reach sexual maturity as early as one year after hatching.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; altricial ; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Baicich, P., C. Harrison. 1997. A Guide to the Nests, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds. San Diego: Academic Press Limited.
  • Johnsgard, P. 1990. Hawks, Eagles, & Falcons of North America. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • Squires, J., R. Reynolds. 1997. Northern Goshawk. The Birds of North America, 298: 2-27.
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When courting a mate, female goshawks will attract males in the area by either performing dramatic aerial displays and vocalizing, or by perching in the nesting area and vocalizing. Once a mate has been found, the two goshawks begin to construct or repair their nest. During this time, the pair will copulate many times a day, sometimes as many as 518 times per clutch.

Male and female goshawks typically maintain a life-long pair bond and only upon death will they seek out a new mate.

Mating System: monogamous

Northern goshawks breed once per year between early April and mid-June, with peak activity occurring at the end of April through May. A mating pair of northern goshawks begins to prepare their nest as early as two months before egg laying. Typically, the nest is located in an old growth forest, near the trunk of a medium to large tree and near openings in the forest such as roads, swamps, and meadows. Their nests are usually about one meter (39.4 inches) in diameter and one-half to one meter (19.7 to 39.4 inches) in height and are made of dead twigs, lined with leafy green twigs or bunches of conifer needles and pieces of bark.

The typical clutch size is two to four eggs, which are laid in two to three day intervals. The eggs are rough textured, bluish-white in color and measure 59x45 millimeters (2.3 x 1.8 inches) in size. The clutch begins to hatch within 28 to 38 days of laying. Incubation of the eggs is primarily the female's job, but occasionally the male will take her place to allow the female to hunt and eat. Nestlings stay at the nest until they are 34 to 35 days old, when they begin to move to nearby branches in the same tree. They may begin to fly when they are 35 to 46 days old. Juvenile fledglings may be fed by their parents until they are about 70 days old.

Breeding interval: Northern goshawks breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Breeding usually occurs between early April and mid-June, with peak activity occurring at the end of April through May.

Range eggs per season: 2 to 4.

Range time to hatching: 28 to 38 days.

Range fledging age: 34 to 35 days.

Average time to independence: 70 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 to 3 minutes.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 to 3 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average eggs per season: 3.

Female goshawks do the majority of egg incubation, but occasionally males will incubate the eggs to allow the female to hunt and eat. After the clutch has hatched, the female will not leave the nesting area until the nestlings are 25 days old. During this time the male is the primary provider of food for the female and her nestlings. When the nestlings reach 25 days old, the female will leave them for periods of time to hunt with the male.

When nestling goshawks reach 35 to 42 days old, they begin to move to branches close to the nest. Soon after this, practice flights begin to occur. Often fledglings participate in "play" which is thought to allow them to practice hunting skills which will be needed throughout their lives.

Young goshawks tend to remain within 300 m of the nest until their flight feathers have fully hardened, at approximately 70 days. During this time fledglings still rely upon their parents for food. Full departure from the nest is often abrupt, though, and 95% of young goshawks become self reliant within 95 days of hatching.

Young goshawks reach sexual maturity as early as one year after hatching.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; altricial ; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Baicich, P., C. Harrison. 1997. A Guide to the Nests, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds. San Diego: Academic Press Limited.
  • Johnsgard, P. 1990. Hawks, Eagles, & Falcons of North America. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • Squires, J., R. Reynolds. 1997. Northern Goshawk. The Birds of North America, 298: 2-27.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Accipiter gentilis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 17
Specimens with Barcodes: 33
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Barcode data: Accipiter gentilis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 14 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

AATCGATGAATATTCTCAACCAACCACAAAGACATCGGTACCCTATATTTAATCTTTGGCGCTTGAGCCGGCATAGTAGGCACTGCCCTC---AGCCTCCTCATCCGCGCAGAACTCGGTCAACCAGGTACACTACTAGGCGAC---GACCAAATCTACAATGTAATCGTCACCGCACATGCCTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTTATACCGATCATAATTGGAGGCTTCGGAAACTGACTTGTTCCGCTCATA---ATTGGCGCCCCCGACATAGCCTTCCCACGCATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTACTCCCCCCATCTTTCCTCCTCTTACTAGCCTCCTCAACCGTAGAAGCAGGAGCCGGAACTGGATGAACTGTTTACCCTCCATTAGCTGGCAACATAGCCCATGCCGGAGCCTCAGTAGACCTA---GCCATCTTCTCCCTACATCTAGCTGGAGTCTCATCCATTCTAGGAGCAATTAACTTCATTACAACCGCCATTAACATAAAACCCCCAGCCCTTTCCCAATACCAAACTCCCCTATTCGTATGATCAGTCCTCATTACCGCCGTCCTACTACTGCTCTCACTTCCAGTCCTAGCTGCC---GGCATTACCATACTACTAACAGATCGAAACCTCAACACAACATTCTTCGACCCTGCCGGTGGAGGCGACCCCATCCTATATCAACATCTCTTCTGATTCTTCGGCCACCCAGAAGTCTACATCCTAATTCTACCAGGTTTTGGAATTATTTCTCACGTAGTAACATACTATGCAGGTAAAAAA---GAACCTTTCGGTTATATAGGAATAGTATGAGCTATACTATCAATCGGATTCCTAGGTTTCATCGTATGAGCTCACCATATATTTACAGTAGGAATAGACGTAGACACCCGAGCATACTTCACATCCGCTACTATAATTATTGCCATCCCAACCGGCATTAAAGTCTTCAGCTGACTA---GCAACACTCCACGGAGGA---ACCATTAAATGAGACCCTCCAATATTATGAGCCCTAGGCTTCATCTTCCTATTCACTATTGGAGGTTTGACAGGAATTGTCCTAGCAAACTCCTCATTAGACATTGCCCTACACGACACATACTACGTAGTTGCCCACTTCCACTATGTA---CTCTCAATAGGAGCTGTCTTCGCCATCCTAGCAGGATTCACCCACTGATTCCCCCTACTAACAGGATTTACCCTCCACCCCACATGATCCAAAGCACACTTTGGAGTCATGTTTACAGGAGTAAACCTGACCTTCTTCCCACAGCACTTCCTAGGCCTCGCCGGAATACCTCGA---CGATACTCAGATTACCCAGACGCCTACACC---CTATGAAACACCATATCCTCCATCGGCTCATTAATCTCAATAGTAGCCGTAATTATACTAATATTCATTATCTGAGAAGCCTTCGCCTCAAAACGAAAAGTC---CTACAACCAGAACTAACCACAACCAAC
-- end --

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4B,N4N : N4B: Apparently Secure - Breeding, N4N: Apparently Secure - Nonbreeding

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Relatively abundant and widespread, Holarctic; population trends are difficult to determine; no hard evidence of a significant decline in recent decades, but probably declining in some areas primarily as a result of habitat alteration (especially logging), which can be expected to continue; effectiveness of forest management guidelines in providing adequate protection remains to be determined.

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

History
  • 2012
    Least Concern
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While not endangered, northern goshawks are listed in Appendix II of the CITES agreement, which means that they can be traded between countries under certain circumstances, but would be threatened by uncontrolled trade. Northern goshawks are also protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Timber harvesting is a major threat to northern goshawk populations. In recent years, several states such as Michigan, Washington and Idaho have listed northern goshawks as a Species of Concern and have increased conservation efforts focused on these birds.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

State of Michigan List: special concern

  • Weidensaul, S. 1996. Raptors The Birds of Prey. New York: Lyons & Burford.
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While not endangered, northern goshawks are listed in Appendix II of the CITES agreement, which means that they can be traded between countries under certain circumstances, but would be threatened by uncontrolled trade. Northern goshawks are also protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Timber harvesting is a major threat to northern goshawk populations. In recent years, several states such as Michigan, Washington and Idaho have listed northern goshawks as a Species of Concern and have increased conservation efforts focused on these birds.

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

State of Michigan List: special concern

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

  • Weidensaul, S. 1996. Raptors The Birds of Prey. New York: Lyons & Burford.
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Status in Egypt

Winter visitor.

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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Comments: Trends are difficult to determine due to the paucity of historic quantitative data and because of biases inherent in the various methodologies used to track bird populations. Nesting range in the eastern U.S. is currently expanding as second-growth forests mature (Squires and Reynolds 1997). In the west, clearcut logging of old-growth forests, fire suppression, and catastrophic fire are postulated to be reducing habitat and thus populations, especially that of the subspecies LAINGI (USFWS 1994). However, conclusive data supporting the purported decline in the western U.S. are lacking (USFWS 1997, Kennedy 1997). Christmas Bird Count (CBC) data (1959-1988; Sauer et al. 1996), North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data (1966-1996; Sauer et al. 1997), and counts of migrants in the eastern U.S. (1972-1987; Titus and Fuller 1990) do not indicate any significant changes in populations. Data derived from CBC and BBS are difficult to interpret due to low sample sizes and the possibility that birds counted may not be a random sample of the breeding population. Counts from migration monitoring stations are complicated by population fluctuations resulting from periodic invasions of large numbers of birds (Bednarz et al. 1990, Titus and Fuller 1990, USFWS 1998).

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Population

Population
The global population is estimated to number > c.500,000 individuals (Rich et al. 2004), while national population estimates include: c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in China; < c.50 individuals on migration and < c.50 wintering individuals in Taiwan; < c.100 breeding pairs and c.50-1,000 wintering individuals in Korea; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs in Japan and possibly c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Degree of Threat: Medium

Comments: HABITAT: Timber harvest is the principal threat to breeding populations (Squires and Reynolds 1997). In addition to the relatively long-term impacts of removing nest trees and degrading habitat by reducing stand density and canopy cover, logging activities conducted near nests during the incubation and nestling periods can have an immediate impact: nest failure due to abandonment (Boal and Mannan 1994, Squires and Reynolds 1997). Following canopy reduction by logging, goshawks are often replaced by other raptors including Red-tailed Hawk (BUTEO JAMAICENSIS), Great Horned Owl (BUBO VIRGINIANUS), and Long-eared Owl (ASIO OTUS; Crocker-Bedford 1990, Erdman et al. 1998). Fire suppression, grazing, and insect and tree disease outbreaks can result in the deterioration or loss of nesting habitat (Graham et al. 1999). PREDATION: The incursion of Great Horned Owls is especially significant as they prey on both adult and nestling goshawks (Boal and Mannan 1994, Erdman et al. 1998, Rohner and Doyle 1992). Other known or suspected predators include martens (MARTES AMERICANA), fishers (MARTES PENNANTI), and wolverines (GULO GULO; Doyle 1995, Erdman et al. 1998, Graham et al. 1999, Paragi and Wholecheese 1994). PESTICIDES: Presently, pesticides do not appear to be a major threat, presumably since agricultural landscapes are seldom used. In the early 1970s, pesticide levels in tested birds were low, and egg thinning due to DDT contamination had not occurred in most populations (Snyder et al. 1973). In addition, population trends derived from counts of migrants at Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania, were generally upward during DDT period, 1946-1972 (Squires and Reynolds 1997). HUMAN DISTURBANCE: Although often persecuted in the past (Bent 1937), intentional shooting or trapping is no longer considered a significant source of mortality. The impact of falconry is generally unknown; however, in northern Wisconsin falconers removed an estimated 5 percent of young annually from monitored nests during a 21-year period (Erdman et al. 1998). DISEASE: Bacterial and fungal diseases have been observed, as have infestations of both external and internal parasites (summarized in Squires and Reynolds 1997). Infections of the fungus ASPERGILLUS were found to be more prevalent in migrants captured in Minnesota during invasion years than non-invasion years, possibly due to stress (Redig et al. 1980).

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Major Threats
Significant declines in Europe in the 19th-20th centuries are thought to have resulted from persecution and deforestation, with later declines in the 1950s-1960s a result of poisoning from pesticides and heavy metals. Persecution continues to be a threat, as is nest robbing for falconry. It is also highly vulnerable to the impacts of potential wind farm developments (Strix 2012).
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Management

Restoration Potential: Given that this species re-inhabits forests recovering from logging, restoration potential is good (Squires and Reynolds 1997).

Preserve Selection and Design Considerations: In addition to forest cover type, other habitat attributes such as stand structure, patch size, landscape features, woody debris, snags, understory vegetation, openings, and canopy closure are important to goshawks and their prey, and therefore must be considered in preserve design (Graham et al. 1999). On the Colorado Plateau, estimated area requirements are 500 square kilometers of forest for 40 pairs and 1000 square kilometers for 80 pairs (Reynolds and Joy 1998). Habitat patch connectivity is also important to consider. One suggestion is that patches of high quality habitat should not be separated by more than 96 kilometers (recommendation based on known dispersal distances; Graham et al. 1999). Scale is another important consideration. Rather than concentrating on breeding home-ranges, entire ecological units (about 100,000 hectares in extent) need to be managed across vegetation types, land ownership, and political boundaries (Graham et al. 1994). Ecological units need to include a wide variety of forest conditions, from regenerating stands to mature second-growth or old-growth stands (Reynolds et al. 1992).

Management Requirements: The U.S. Forest Service has developed forest management recommendations for the southwestern U.S. designed to sustain forest composition and structure necessary for goshawk reproduction (Reynolds et al. 1992, Graham, et al. 1994). Reynolds et al. (1992) divided the nesting home range (about 2400 hectares) into three components - nesting area, post-fledging family area (PFA), and foraging area - and provided size and management recommendations for each. Three nesting areas per home range - each encompassing approximately 12 hectares of large, mature trees - should be available. In addition, three replacement nesting areas per home range should be in some phase of development to provide alternates to currently used sites. The PFA should encompass approximately 170 hectares and be maintained by management tools such as timber harvest and prescribed fire to provide a variety of forest conditions and prey habitat attributes. Management activities should be confined to the non-breeding period. The foraging area should encompass approximately 2200 hectares and be managed similarly to the PFA except that it should provide larger forest openings and less canopy coverage. To replace the late-seral stages of forest lost through natural or anthropogenic events, Bassett et al. (1994) and Graham et al. (1994) recommended that 10 percent of the forest be regenerated every 20 years. Minimum recommendations for timber harvest include leaving an 8-hectare forest buffer around nests (Reynolds et al. 1982).

Management Research Needs: Additional studies are needed on population size and structure; population trend and rate of population change; age-specific fecundity and survival; life span; mate and territory fidelity; adult and juvenile dispersal; variations in diet composition and prey abundance in various forest types; response of populations to variations in prey abundance; seasonal and annual variations in habitat use (particularly winter habitat selection; Beier and Drennan 1997), in home range size, and in dietary composition; foraging behavior; and activity budgets. In addition, monitoring and inventorying techniques need to be improved, the factor or combination of factors that limit population size need to determined, and forest dynamics, as they relate to maintenance and enhancement of preferred habitat, need to be better understood (Keane and Morrison 1994, Reynolds, et al. 1992).

Biological Research Needs: Need to evaluate effects of pesticides and extent of movement patterns for all populations. Also need information on preferred habitat characteristics in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions and size of home range, feeding areas, and post-fledging area, especially in areas where harvest of mature forests is ongoing or anticipated in the next decade. Need to develop compatible forest management practices and an effective means of tracking population trends through time.

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Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: Nests on preserved lands which may be protected from disturbance. Listed as a forest sensitive species by U.S. Forest Service, which is working to protect species with special management guidelines.

Needs: Protection needs are still being debated among experts. Critical habitat needs better definition for the various parts of the range before protection needs can be clearly detailed. However, in general, protection of large, mature to old-growth forest tracts should be beneficial.

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Management Considerations

More info for the terms: fire management, fire suppression, natural, restoration, tree

Federal legal status: The Queen Charlotte subspecies of the northern goshawk is listed as Threatened [50].

Other status: Information on state- and province-level protection status of animals in the United States and Canada is available at NatureServe, though recent changes in status may not be included.

Other management information:
Population status: Trends in northern goshawk populations are difficult to assess for several reasons. Northern goshawks are secretive and consequently difficult to survey. Many studies have small sample sizes and are temporally and/or spatially limited in scope. Methodology in some studies may be biased and methods, analyses, and interpretation vary between studies [43]. Attempts to assess the status of northern goshawk populations have not found strong evidence supporting population declines, though most studies were not designed to detect population changes [10,26]. Populations may also vary regionally; some managers in New England suspect northern goshawk populations may be increasing due to widespread reforestation in the region, but they lack definitive data to support this hypothesis [15].

Northern goshawks exhibit some life history characteristics that facilitate adaptation to landscape change. They maintain a large breeding territory that contains several nest sites, so if one nest site is altered or destroyed, they may have other nearby options (see Nest and nest site fidelity). Though most sources report the use of mature forests for nesting, northern goshawks occasionally nest in areas with few trees or in small forest patches [10]. Similarly, they forage over large areas, using open areas and a variety of forest structures (see Foraging habitat). Several sources suggest that they adjust to changing environmental conditions [10,26]. Northern goshawks also show plasticity in migration strategy, allowing individuals to seasonally avoid areas where habitat has been degraded [26].

Landscape management decisions can influence the success of individuals or pairs of northern goshawks and northern goshawk populations. One review asserts that the primary threat to northern goshawk populations is the modification of forest habitats by management and natural disturbances [10]. Though it is difficult to assess the population status of northern goshawks, managers have raised concerns over destruction and/or modification of northern goshawk habitat via natural and anthropogenic disturbances. Natural disturbances that may impact northern goshawk habitat include severe wildfires [10], insect outbreaks [17], and drought [40]. Diseases, parasites, exposure, and predation tend to impact individuals rather than populations [10]. Potential anthropogenic threats to northern goshawk habitat include silvicultural treatments that result in forest fragmentation, creation of even-aged and/or monotypic stands, potential increase in acreage of young age classes, and loss of tree species diversity [43]. Other anthropogenic threats to northern goshawk populations include fire suppression activities [17,40], livestock grazing, exposure to toxins and chemicals [40], and timber harvest [10,17,26,40].

Timber harvest: The impact of timber harvest on northern goshawks is much debated in the literature, and centers mostly on the loss of mature forest. Though many believe that extensive habitat modification due to timber harvest is detrimental to northern goshawk populations, a lack of research across a gradient of tree-harvest intensities precludes a clear demonstration of negative effects [10]. Furthermore, few studies have investigated northern goshawk habitats in forests not managed for timber harvest [26].

Forest management for timber extraction can directly impact the structure, function and quality of both nesting and foraging habitat by removing nests and nest trees, modifying or removing entire nest stands, and removing the canopy and mature trees, snags, and downed wood that support prey populations [26]. The loss of important habitat features could impact both the ability of northern goshawks to access prey items (e.g., inability to hunt in areas of dense tree regeneration) and limit prey populations [40]. Reduction and fragmentation of habitat may also favor early-successional competitors and predators such as red-tailed hawks and great horned owls [26]. Indirect impacts of timber harvest on nesting may vary; breeding densities may be lowered or individuals may move to adjacent, undisturbed areas [48]. The threshold at which landscape-altering projects render an area unsuitable to northern goshawks likely varies spatially and/or temporally [26]. However, one source suggests that in some cases (e.g., the inland Pacific Northwest), nonharvest forestry may be just as detrimental to northern goshawk nesting habitat as aggressive, maximum-yield forestry [17].

The following sources provide information on reducing potential negative impacts of timber harvest on northern goshawk individuals and populations: [9,48].

Management actions to benefit northern goshawks: Managers and researchers offer many suggestions for managing forested landscapes to benefit northern goshawk populations. These recommendations include stand-level treatments like maintaining large trees, snags, and large downed logs [40] and larger-scale suggestions such as maintaining and enhancing mature forests [10,15,26,40], limiting forest fragmentation [26], and maintaining a mosaic of structural stages [17,26,40]. Several authors suggest managing at multiple scales [17,26,40]. However, because stand and landscape characteristics, as well as management objectives, vary throughout the range of northern goshawks, no management plan or prescription can encompass the variety of conditions northern goshawks might encounter [40]. For example, in the western United States, 78% of the habitat occupied by nesting northern goshawks occurs on federally managed lands, while in the eastern United States, most forested areas are privately owned [10]. Several sources offer regional recommendations for managing forests for northern goshawk habitat, including recommendations for New England [15], the Great Lakes [7], the Black Hills region of South Dakota [47], the central Rocky Mountains [26], west-central Montana [12], the western United States [24], the southwestern United States [40], the inland Pacific Northwest [17], and California [42]. Several sources offer recommendations for silvicultural and other physical treatments (e.g., forest restoration, understory thinning, prescribed fire) to increase the availability of mature forest and/or restore historical stand conditions to improve habitat for northern goshawks and their prey [10,26,32,40,48]. See Fire Management Considerations for more information on this topic.
  • 7. Boal, Clint W.; Andersen, David E.; Kennedy, Patricia L.; Roberson, Aimee M. 2006. Northern goshawk ecology in the western Great Lakes region. Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 126-134. [84224]
  • 9. Bosakowski, Thomas; McCullough, Bruce; Lapsansky, Frank J.; Vaughn, Martin E. 1999. Northern goshawks nesting on a private industrial forest in western Washington. Journal of Raptor Research. 33(3): 240-244. [84254]
  • 10. Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russell T. 2006. Goshawk status and management: what do we know, what have we done, where are we going? Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 312-325. [84260]
  • 12. Clough, Lorraine T. 2000. Nesting habitat selection and productivity of northern goshawks in west-central Montana. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. 87 p. Thesis. [84583]
  • 15. DeStefano, Stephen. 2005. A review of the status and distribution of northern goshawks in New England. Journal of Raptor Research. 39(3): 324-332. [84390]
  • 17. DeStefano, Stephen; McGrath, Michael T.; Daw, Sonya K.; Desimone, Steven M. 2006. Ecology and habitat of breeding northern goshawks in the inland Pacific Northwest: a summary of research in the 1990s. Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 75-84. [84387]
  • 24. Greenwald, D. Noah; Crocker-Bedford, D. Coleman; Broberg, Len; Suckling, Kieran; Tibbitts, Timothy. 2005. A review of northern goshawk habitat selection in the home range and implications for forest management in the western United States. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 33(1): 120-129. [84508]
  • 32. Long, James N.; Smith, Frederick W. 2000. Restructuring the forest: Goshawks and the restoring of southwestern ponderosa pine. Journal of Forestry. 98(8): 25-30. [38866]
  • 40. Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russel T.; Reiser, M. Hildegard; Bassett, Richard L.; Kennedy, Patricia L.; Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Goodwin, Greg; Smith, Randall; Fisher, E. Leon. 1992. Management recommendations for the northern goshawk in the southwestern United States. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-217. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 90 p. [27983]
  • 42. Rickman, Tom H.; Jones, Bobette E.; Cluck, Danny R.; Richter, David J.; Tate, Kenneth W. 2005. Night roost habitat of radiotagged northern goshawks on Lassen National Forest, California. Journal of Wildlife Management. 69(4): 1737-1742. [84981]
  • 43. Roberson, Aimee M.; Andersen, David E.; Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. The northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) in the western Great Lakes region: a technical conservation assessment. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, Minnesota Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit. 91 p. [84982]
  • 47. Shepperd, Wayne D.; Battaglia, Michael A. 2002. Ecology, silviculture, and management of Black Hills ponderosa pine. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-97. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 112 p. [44794]
  • 26. Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentiles atricapillus): a technical conservation assessment, [Online]. Golden, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region (Producer). 142 p. Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/projects/scp/assessments/northerngoshawk.pdf [2012, February 9]. [84509]
  • 48. Squires, John R.; Reynolds, Richard T. 1997. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), [Online]. Issue No. 298. In: Poole, A., ed. The birds of North America Online. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Producer). Available: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/298 [2012, November 30]. [84032]
  • 50. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Endangered Species. 2013. Threatened and endangered animals and plants, [Online]. Available: http://ecos.fws.gov/tess_public/pub/listedAnimals.jsp. [62042]

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Because northern goshawks are threatened in some areas, conservation measures to protect them may negatively impact the logging industry.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Northern goshawks have been used for centuries in falconry. More importantly, northern goshawks help to control populations of small mammal pests.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Because northern goshawks are threatened in some areas, conservation measures to protect them may negatively impact the logging industry.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Northern goshawks have been used for centuries in falconry. More importantly, northern goshawks help to control populations of small mammal pests.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Risks

Stewardship Overview: Population trends are obscured by the lack of historic data and periodic fall irruptions of large numbers of individuals. The principal threat to breeding populations is timber harvest and large tree-killing fires. Large, landscape-level ecological units need to be identified and managed in such a way that all necessary habitat attributes, from nesting sites to foraging areas, are available to support the species at the population level. Monitoring methods include broadcasting taped conspecific vocalizations along transects during the nesting season or listening for spontaneous vocalizations of breeding pairs prior to egg-laying.

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Wikipedia

Northern goshawk

The northern goshawk /ˈɡɒs.hɔːk/ (Old English: gōsheafoc, "goose-hawk"), Accipiter gentilis, is a medium-large bird of prey in the family Accipitridae, which also includes other diurnal raptors, such as eagles, buzzards and harriers. As a species in the Accipiter genus, the goshawk is often considered a true "hawk".

It is a widespread species that inhabits the temperate parts of the northern hemisphere. It is the only species in the Accipiter genus found in both Eurasia and North America. With the exception of Asia, it is the only species of "goshawk" in its range and it is thus often referred to (officially and unofficially, respectively) as simply the "goshawk". It is mainly resident, but birds from colder regions migrate south for the winter. In North America, migratory goshawks are often seen migrating south along mountain ridge tops in September and October.

This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758 under its current scientific name.[3]

The northern goshawk appears on the flag of the Azores. The archipelago of the Azores, Portugal, takes its name from the Portuguese language word for goshawk, (açor), because the explorers who discovered the archipelago thought the birds of prey they saw there were goshawks; later it was found that these birds were kites or common buzzards (Buteo buteo rothschildi).

Description[edit]

Juvenile (left) and adult by Louis Agassiz Fuertes
Juvenile in flight

The northern goshawk is the largest member of the genus Accipiter.[4] 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. Across most of the species' range, it is blue-grey above and barred grey or white below, but Asian subspecies in particular range from nearly white overall to nearly black above. The juvenile is brown above and barred brown below. Juveniles and adults have a barred tail, with dark brown or black barring. Adults always have a white eye stripe. In North America, juveniles have pale-yellow eyes, and adults develop dark red eyes usually after their second year, although nutrition and genetics may affect eye color as well. In Europe and Asia, juveniles also have pale-yellow eyes, however adults develop orange-colored eyes.

The northern goshawk, like all accipiters, exhibits sexual dimorphism, where females are significantly larger than males. Males, being the smaller sex by around 10–25%, are 46–57 cm (18–22 in) long and have a 89–105 cm (35–41 in) wingspan.[5][6] The female is much larger, 58–69 cm (23–27 in) long with a 108–127 cm (43–50 in) wingspan.[5][6] Males average around 780 g (1.72 lb), with a range of 500 to 1,200 g (1.1 to 2.6 lb).[5] The female can be more than twice as heavy, averaging 1,220 g (2.69 lb) with a range of 820 to 2,200 g (1.81 to 4.85 lb).[5] Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 28.6–39 cm (11.3–15.4 in), the tail is 20–28 cm (7.9–11.0 in), the culmen is 2–2.6 cm (0.79–1.02 in) and the tarsus is 6.8–9 cm (2.7–3.5 in).[5][7][8] In Eurasia, the species follows Bergmann's rule, specimens from the northern races generally are larger-bodied than goshawks near the southern reaches of the species range.[5] Going on wing chord length, A. g. apache, found in Mexico to Arizona and New Mexico is the largest subspecies at an average of 36.8 cm (14.5 in) and is larger than more northern subspecies in that continent, thus running contrary to Bergmann's rule. A. g. fujiyamae of Japan is the smallest race, at 30.9 cm (12.2 in) in wing chord length.[5] In Europe, goshawks from Finland or of Finnish ancestry are prized as bigger than other goshawks.

The flight is a characteristic "flap flap, glide", but is sometimes seen soaring in migration, and is capable of considerable, sustained, horizontal speed in pursuit of prey with speeds of 38 mph (61 km/h) reported.[9] Goshawks are sometimes confused with gyrfalcons especially when observed in high speed pursuit, with their wingtips drawn backward in a falcon-like profile.

In Eurasia, the male is sometimes confused with a female sparrowhawk, but is larger, much bulkier and has relatively longer wings. In North America, juveniles are sometimes confused with the smaller Cooper's hawk, however the juvenile goshawk displays a heavier, vertical streaking pattern on their chest and abdomen and sometimes appears to have a shorter tail due to its much larger and broader body. Although there appears to be a size overlap between small male goshawks and large female Cooper's Hawks, morphometric measurements (wing and tail length) of both species demonstrate no such overlap, although weight overlap can occur due to variation in seasonal condition and food intake at time of weighing. In North America, the sharp-shinned hawk is markedly smaller.

Habitat[edit]

Northern goshawks can be found in both deciduous and coniferous forests. They seem to only thrive in areas with mature, old-growth woods and are typically found where human activity is relatively low. During nesting season, they favor tall trees with intermediate canopy coverage and small openings below for hunting. They can be found at almost any altitude, but are typically found at high elevations recently due to a paucity of extensive forests remaining in lowlands across much of its range. In winter months, the northernmost populations move down to warmer forests with lower elevations, continuing to avoid detection except while migrating. A majority of goshawks around the world remain sedentary throughout the year.[10][11]

Food and hunting[edit]

This species is a powerful hunter, taking birds and mammals in a variety of woodland habitats, often utilizing a combination of speed and obstructing cover to ambush birds and mammals. Goshawks are often seen flying along adjoining habitat types, such as the edge of a forest and meadow; flying low and fast hoping to surprise unsuspecting prey. They are usually opportunistic predators, as are most birds of prey. The most important prey species are small mammals and birds found in forest habitats, in North America, this is compromised largely by grouse, American crow, snowshoe hare, and red squirrel. Compared to many smaller Accipiter species, northern goshawks are less specialized as predators of birds, with up to 69% or as little as 18–21% of their diet comprised by either birds or mammals depending on location.[12][13][14] Prey species may be quite diverse, including pigeons and doves, pheasants, partridges, grouse, gulls, assorted waders, woodpeckers, corvids, waterfowl (mostly tree-nesting varieties such as the Aythya genus[12]) and various passerines depending on the region. Mammal prey may include rabbits, hares, tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, rats, voles, mice, weasels and shrews. Prey is often smaller than the hunting hawk, with an average prey mass of 275 g (9.7 oz) in one study of nesting birds in Minnesota.[12] In the Netherlands, male prey averaged 277 g (9.8 oz) whereas female prey averaged 505 g (17.8 oz).[5] However, northern goshawks will also occasionally kill much larger animals, up to the size of geese, raccoons, foxes and large hares, any of which can be more than twice their own weight.[5][15] The goshawk is likely a significant predator of other raptors, known prey including European honey buzzards, owls, smaller Accipiters and the American kestrel.[5][16]

Northern goshawks sometimes cache prey on tree branches or wedged in a crotch between branches for up to 32 hours. This is done primarily during the nestling stage.[10]

Behavior[edit]

Just missed him, (c.1898), G. E. Lodge

In the spring breeding season, northern goshawks perform a spectacular "undulating flight display", and this is one of the few times this secretive forest bird engages in behavior conspicuous to human observation. At this time, the surprisingly gull-like call of this bird is sometimes heard. As in all Accipiters, communication is primarily vocal since visual displays are difficult in the species' preferred densely vegetated habitats.[11] Adults defend their territories fiercely from all intruders, including passing humans. It is presumed that their unusually aggressive nest defense is an adaptation to defense against tree-climbing bears such as the American black bear and the Asian black bear. Additional predators at the nest may include formidable species that can climb or fly to trees such as fishers, other martens, wolverines, eagles and great horned owls and Eurasian eagle owls.[10][11] Gray wolves have been recorded stalking and killing fledging goshawks, especially when larger prey is scarce.[11] Goshawks are most under threat from hatching until their fledgling stage, and are rarely threatened by other wild animals outside their own species when adult. Other raptor species have been recorded as being viciously attacked by goshawks variously over competition for food, for too closely approaching active nests and in territorial behavior, and many are regularly displaced or even killed by the aggressive goshawk.[5][11] The northern goshawk is considered a secretive raptor, and is rarely observed even in areas where nesting sites are relatively close together. During nesting, the home ranges of goshawk pairs are from 570 and 3500 hectares or 1408 and 3478 acres.[11]

Breeding[edit]

Adults return to their nesting territories by March or April and begin laying eggs in April or May. Usually, once they are "paired up", a breeding pair will mate for life. Territories often encompass a variety of habitats, however the immediate nest area is often found in a large, mature or old-growth forest tree. Nests are bulky structures, often measuring about 1 m (3.3 ft) in both width and depth, made of dead twigs, lined with leafy green twigs or bunches of conifer needles and pieces of bark. The clutch size is usually 2 to 4, but anywhere from 1 to 5 eggs may be laid. Each egg is laid at 2- to 3-day intervals. The eggs are bluish-white and roughly-textured. They average 59 mm × 45 mm (2.3 in × 1.8 in) in size and weigh about 60 g (2.1 oz). The female is the primary incubator, although the male will sometimes take a shift to give the female a chance to eat. The male does most of the hunting for both the female and the young at the nest. The incubation period can range from 28 to 38 days. Nestling goshawks are highly vocal. They may use a "whistle-beg" call as a plea for food. It begins as a ke-ke-ke noise, and progresses to a kakking sound. The chick may also use a high pitched "contentment-twitter" when it is well fed. The young leave the nest after from 35 to 46 days and start trying to fly another 10 days later. Parent goshawks continue to actively feed their offspring until they are about 70 days of age. The young may remain in their parents' territory for up to a year of age, at which point sexual maturity is reached.[11]

Status[edit]

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the northern goshawk was extirpated in the 19th century because of specimen collectors and persecution by gamekeepers, but in recent years it has come back by immigration from Europe, escaped falconry birds[citation needed], and deliberate releases[citation needed]. The goshawk is now found in considerable numbers in Kielder Forest, Northumberland, which is the largest forest in Britain. The main threat to northern goshawks internationally today is the clearing of forest habitat on which both they and their prey depend, and in Britain illegal shooting and poisoning for game preservation when young dispersing move into farming areas.

In North America, several non-governmental conservation organizations petitioned the Department of Interior, United States Fish & Wildlife Service (1991 & 1997) to list the goshawk as "threatened" or "endangered" under the authority of the Endangered Species Act. Both petitions argued for listing primarily on the basis of historic and ongoing nesting habitat loss, specifically the loss of old-growth and mature forest stands throughout the goshawk's known range. In both petitions, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service concluded that listing was not warranted, but state and federal natural resource agencies responded during the petition process with standardized and long-term goshawk inventory and monitoring efforts, especially throughout U.S. Forest Service lands in the Western U.S. The United States Forest Service (US Dept of Agriculture) has listed the goshawk as a "sensitive species", while it also benefits from various protection at the state level. In North America, the goshawk is federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 by an amendment incorporating native birds of prey into the Act in 1972. The northern goshawk is also listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).[17]

In falconry[edit]

Falconer's bird in Scotland

The name "goshawk" is a traditional name from Anglo-Saxon gōshafoc, literally "goose hawk".[18] The name implies prowess against larger quarry such as wild geese, but were also flown against crane species and other large waterbirds. The name "goose hawk" is somewhat of a misnomer, however, as the traditional quarry for goshawks in ancient and contemporary falconry has been rabbits, pheasants, partridge, and medium sized waterfowl. A notable exception is in records of traditional Japanese falconry, where goshawks were used more regularly on goose and crane species.[19] In ancient European falconry literature, goshawks were often referred to as a yeoman's bird or the "cook's bird" due to their utility as a hunting partner catching edible prey, as opposed to the peregrine falcon, also a prized falconry bird, but more associated with nobleman and less adapted to a variety of hunting techniques and prey types found in wooded areas. The northern goshawk has remained equal to the peregrine falcon in its stature and popularity in modern falconry.[20]

Goshawk hunting flights in falconry typically begin from the falconer's gloved hand, where the fleeing bird or rabbit is pursued in a horizontal chase. The goshawk's flight in pursuit of prey is characterized by an intense burst of speed often followed by a binding maneuver, where the goshawk, if the prey is a bird, inverts and seizes the prey from below. The goshawk, like other accipiters, shows a marked willingness to follow prey into thick vegetation, even pursuing prey on foot through brush.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2013). "Accipiter gentilis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Avibase: Eastern Goshawk". avis.indianbiodiversity.org. 
  3. ^ (Latin) 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). p. 89. "F. cera pedibusque flavis, corpore cinereo maculis fuscis cauda fasciis quatuor nigricantibus" 
  4. ^ "Northern Goshawk". Birds of Quebec. Retrieved 2007-03-18. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ferguson-Lees, Christie, Franklin, Mead & Burton (2001). Raptors of the World Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-12762-3.
  6. ^ a b Goshawk- Life History. Allaboutbirds.org. Retrieved on 2012-12-21.
  7. ^ Johnson, Donald R (1989). "Body size of Northern Goshawks on coastal islands of British Columbia". Wilson Bull. 101 (4): 637–639. 
  8. ^ Northern Goshawk – Accipiter gentilis. Avis.indianbiodiversity.org (2009-12-04). Retrieved on 2012-12-21.
  9. ^ "Northern Goshawk". Retrieved 2012-01-23. 
  10. ^ a b c Johnsgard, P. (1990). Hawks, Eagles, & Falcons of North America, Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, ISBN 0874746825.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Squires, J., R. Reynolds (1997). Northern Goshawk. Birds of North America, 298: 2–27.
  12. ^ a b c Smithers, B L; Boal, C W and Andersen, D E (2005). "Northern Goshawk diet in Minnesota: An analysis using video recording systems". Journal of Raptor Research 39 (3): 264–273. 
  13. ^ Lewis, Stephen B.; Titus, Kimberly; Fuller, Mark R. (2006). "Northern Goshawk Diet During the Nesting Season in Southeast Alaska". Journal of Wildlife Management 70 (4): 1151. doi:10.2193/0022-541X(2006)70[1151:NGDDTN]2.0.CO;2. 
  14. ^ Accipiter gentilis – northern goshawk. Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan
  15. ^ Northern Goshawk (Accipter gentilis). pauldfrost.co.uk
  16. ^ Hogan, C. Michael (ed.) (2010). American Kestrel. Encyclopedia of Earth, U.S. National Council for Science and the Environment, Cleveland
  17. ^ Woodbridge, B; Hargis C.D. (2006). Northern goshawk inventory and monitoring technical guide. Gen. Tech. Report WO-71. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.
  18. ^ Lockwood, W B (1993). The Oxford Dictionary of British Bird Names. OUP. ISBN 978-0-19-866196-2. 
  19. ^ Jameson, E. W., Jr. (1962). The Hawking of Japan, the History and Development of Japanese Falconry, Davis. Calif. 97 p. 2
  20. ^ a b Beebe, F.L. and Webster, H.M. (2000). North American Falconry and Hunting Hawks, 8th edition, ISBN 0-685-66290-X

Further reading[edit]

Identification[edit]

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Northern Goshawk

The Northern Goshawk /ˈɡɒs.hɔːk/ (Old English: gōsheafoc, "goose-hawk"), Accipiter gentilis, is a medium-large bird of prey in the family Accipitridae, which also includes other diurnal raptors, such as eagles, buzzards and harriers. As a species in the Accipiter genus, the goshawk is often considered a true "hawk".

It is a widespread species that inhabits the temperate parts of the northern hemisphere. It is the only species in the Accipiter genus found in both Eurasia and North America. With the exception of Asia, it is the only species of "goshawk" in its range and it is thus often referred to (officially and unofficially, respectively) as simply the "Goshawk". It is mainly resident, but birds from colder regions migrate south for the winter. In North America, migratory goshawks are often seen migrating south along mountain ridge tops in September and October.

This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758 under its current scientific name.[3]

The Northern Goshawk appears on the flag of the Azores. The archipelago of the Azores, Portugal, takes its name from the Portuguese language word for goshawk, (açor), because the explorers who discovered the archipelago thought the birds of prey they saw there were goshawks; later it was found that these birds were kites or Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo rothschildi).

Description[edit]

Juvenile (left) and adult by Louis Agassiz Fuertes
Juvenile in flight

The Northern Goshawk is the largest member of the genus Accipiter.[4] 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. Across most of the species' range, it is blue-grey above and barred grey or white below, but Asian subspecies in particular range from nearly white overall to nearly black above. The juvenile is brown above and barred brown below. Juveniles and adults have a barred tail, with dark brown or black barring. Adults always have a white eye stripe. In North America, juveniles have pale-yellow eyes, and adults develop dark red eyes usually after their second year, although nutrition and genetics may affect eye color as well. In Europe and Asia, juveniles also have pale-yellow eyes, however adults develop orange-colored eyes.

The Northern Goshawk, like all accipiters, exhibits sexual dimorphism, where females are significantly larger than males. Males, being the smaller sex by around 10–25%, are 46–57 cm (18–22 in) long and have a 89–105 cm (35–41 in) wingspan.[5][6] The female is much larger, 58–69 cm (23–27 in) long with a 108–127 cm (43–50 in) wingspan.[5][6] Males average around 780 g (1.72 lb), with a range of 500 to 1,200 g (1.1 to 2.6 lb).[5] The female can be more than twice as heavy, averaging 1,220 g (2.69 lb) with a range of 820 to 2,200 g (1.81 to 4.85 lb).[5] Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 28.6–39 cm (11.3–15.4 in), the tail is 20–28 cm (7.9–11.0 in), the culmen is 2–2.6 cm (0.79–1.02 in) and the tarsus is 6.8–9 cm (2.7–3.5 in).[5][7][8] In Eurasia, the species follows Bergmann's rule, specimens from the northern races generally are larger-bodied than goshawks near the southern reaches of the species range.[5] Going on wing chord length, A. g. apache, found in Mexico to Arizona and New Mexico is the largest subspecies at an average of 36.8 cm (14.5 in) and is larger than more Northern subspecies in that continent, thus running contrary to Bergmann's rule. A. g. fujiyamae of Japan is the smallest race, at 30.9 cm (12.2 in) in wing chord length.[5] In Europe, goshawks from Finland or of Finnish ancestry are prized as bigger than other goshawks.

The flight is a characteristic "flap flap, glide", but is sometimes seen soaring in migration, and is capable of considerable, sustained, horizontal speed in pursuit of prey with speeds of 38 mph (61 km/h) reported.[9] Goshawks are sometimes confused with gyrfalcons especially when observed in high speed pursuit, with their wingtips drawn backward in a falcon-like profile.

In Eurasia, the male is sometimes confused with a female Sparrowhawk, but is larger, much bulkier and has relatively longer wings. In North America, juveniles are sometimes confused with the smaller Cooper's Hawk, however the juvenile goshawk displays a heavier, vertical streaking pattern on their chest and abdomen and sometimes appears to have a shorter tail due to its much larger and broader body. Although there appears to be a size overlap between small male goshawks and large female Cooper's Hawks, morphometric measurements (wing and tail length) of both species demonstrate no such overlap, although weight overlap can occur due to variation in seasonal condition and food intake at time of weighing. In North America, the Sharp-shinned Hawk is markedly smaller.

Habitat[edit]

Northern Goshawks can be found in both deciduous and coniferous forests. They seem to only thrive in areas with mature, old-growth woods and are typically found where human activity is relatively low. During nesting season, they favor tall trees with intermediate canopy coverage and small openings below for hunting. They can be found at almost any altitude, but are typically found at high elevations recently due to a paucity of extensive forests remaining in lowlands across much of its range. In winter months, the northernmost populations move down to warmer forests with lower elevations, continuing to avoid detection except while migrating. A majority of goshawks around the world remain sedentary throughout the year.[10][11]

Food and hunting[edit]

This species is a powerful hunter, taking birds and mammals in a variety of woodland habitats, often utilizing a combination of speed and obstructing cover to ambush birds and mammals. Goshawks are often seen flying along adjoining habitat types, such as the edge of a forest and meadow; flying low and fast hoping to surprise unsuspecting prey. They are usually opportunistic predators, as are most birds of prey. The most important prey species are small mammals and birds found in forest habitats, in North America, this is compromised largely by grouse, American Crow, snowshoe hare, and red squirrel. Compared to many smaller Accipiter species, Northern Goshawks are less specialized as predators of birds, with up to 69% or as little as 18–21% of their diet comprised by either birds or mammals depending on location.[12][13][14] Prey species may be quite diverse, including pigeons and doves, pheasants, partridges, grouse, gulls, assorted waders, woodpeckers, corvids, waterfowl (mostly tree-nesting varieties such as the Aythya genus[12]) and various passerines depending on the region. Mammal prey may include rabbits, hares, tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, rats, voles, mice, weasels and shrews. Prey is often smaller than the hunting hawk, with an average prey mass of 275 g (9.7 oz) in one study of nesting birds in Minnesota.[12] In the Netherlands, male prey averaged 277 g (9.8 oz) whereas female prey averaged 505 g (17.8 oz).[5] However, Northern Goshawks will also occasionally kill much larger animals, up to the size of geese, raccoons, foxes and large hares, any of which can be more than twice their own weight.[5][15] The Goshawk is likely a significant predator of other raptors, known prey including European Honey Buzzards, owls, smaller Accipiters and the American Kestrel.[5][16]

Northern goshawks sometimes cache prey on tree branches or wedged in a crotch between branches for up to 32 hours. This is done primarily during the nestling stage.[10]

Behavior[edit]

Just missed him, (c.1898), G. E. Lodge.

In the spring breeding season, Northern Goshawks perform a spectacular "undulating flight display", and this is one of the few times this secretive forest bird engages in behavior conspicuous to human observation. At this time, the surprisingly gull-like call of this bird is sometimes heard. As in all Accipiters, communication is primarily vocal since visual displays are difficult in the species' preferred densely vegetated habitats.[11] Adults defend their territories fiercely from all intruders, including passing humans. It is presumed that their unusually aggressive nest defense is an adaptation to tree-climbing bears species, such as the black bears of North America and Asia. Additional predators at the nest may include formidable species that can climb or fly to trees such as fishers, other martens, wolverines, eagles and Great Horned and Eurasian Eagle Owls.[10][11] Gray wolves have been recorded stalking and killing fledging goshawks, especially when larger prey is scarce.[11] Goshawks are most under threat from hatching until their fledgling stage, and are rarely threatened by other wild animals outside their own species once they attain adulthood. Other raptor species have been recorded as being viciously attacked variously over competition for food, for too closely approaching active nests and in territorial behavior and many are regularly displaced or even killed by the aggressive goshawk.[5][11] The Northern Goshawk is considered a secretive raptor, and is rarely observed even in areas where nesting sites are relatively close together. During nesting, the home ranges of goshawk pairs are from 570 and 3500 hectares or 1408 and 3478 acres.[11]

Breeding[edit]

Adults return to their nesting territories by March or April and begin laying eggs in April or May. Usually, once they are "paired up", a breeding pair will mate for life. Territories often encompass a variety of habitats, however the immediate nest area is often found in a large, mature or old-growth forest tree. Nests are bulky structures, often measuring about 1 m (3.3 ft) in both width and depth, made of dead twigs, lined with leafy green twigs or bunches of conifer needles and pieces of bark. The clutch size is usually 2 to 4, but anywhere from 1 to 5 eggs may be laid. Each egg is laid at 2- to 3-day intervals. The eggs are bluish-white and roughly-textured. They average 59 mm × 45 mm (2.3 in × 1.8 in) in size and weigh about 60 g (2.1 oz). The female is the primary incubator, although the male will sometimes take a shift to give the female a chance to eat. The male does most of the hunting for both the female and the young at the nest. The incubation period can range from 28 to 38 days. Nestling goshawks are highly vocal. They may use a "whistle-beg" call as a plea for food. It begins as a ke-ke-ke noise, and progresses to a kakking sound. The chick may also use a high pitched "contentment-twitter" when it is well fed. The young leave the nest after from 35 to 46days and start trying to fly another 10 days later. Parent goshawks continue to actively feed their offspring until they are about 70 days of age. The young may remain in their parents' territory for up to a year of age, at which point sexual maturity is reached.[11]

Status[edit]

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Northern Goshawk was extirpated in the 19th century because of specimen collectors and persecution by gamekeepers, but in recent years it has come back by immigration from Europe, escaped falconry birds[citation needed], and deliberate releases[citation needed]. The Goshawk is now found in considerable numbers in Kielder Forest, Northumberland, which is the largest forest in Britain. The main threat to Northern Goshawks internationally today is the clearing of forest habitat on which both they and their prey depend, and in Britain illegal shooting and poisoning for game preservation when young dispersing move into farming areas.

In North America, several non-governmental conservation organizations petitioned the Department of Interior, United States Fish & Wildlife Service (1991 & 1997) to list the Goshawk as "threatened" or "endangered" under the authority of the Endangered Species Act. Both petitions argued for listing primarily on the basis of historic and ongoing nesting habitat loss, specifically the loss of old-growth and mature forest stands throughout the goshawk's known range. In both petitions, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service concluded that listing was not warranted, but state and federal natural resource agencies responded during the petition process with standardized and long-term goshawk inventory and monitoring efforts, especially throughout U.S. Forest Service lands in the Western U.S. The United States Forest Service (US Dept of Agriculture) has listed the goshawk as a "sensitive species", while it also benefits from various protection at the state level. In North America, the goshawk is federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 by an amendment incorporating native birds of prey into the Act in 1972. The Northern Goshawk is also listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).[17]

In falconry[edit]

A falconer's bird in Scotland

The name "goshawk" is a traditional name from Anglo-Saxon gōshafoc, literally "goose hawk".[18] The name implies prowess against larger quarry such as wild geese, but were also flown against crane species and other large waterbirds. The name "goose hawk" is somewhat of a misnomer, however, as the traditional quarry for goshawks in ancient and contemporary falconry has been rabbits, pheasants, partridge, and medium sized waterfowl. A notable exception is in records of traditional Japanese falconry, where goshawks were used more regularly on goose and crane species.[19] In ancient European falconry literature, goshawks were often referred to as a yeoman's bird or the "cook's bird" due to their utility as a hunting partner catching edible prey, as opposed to the peregrine falcon, also a prized falconry bird, but more associated with nobleman and less adapted to a variety of hunting techniques and prey types found in wooded areas. The Northern Goshawk has remained equal to the peregrine falcon in its stature and popularity in modern falconry.[20]

Goshawk hunting flights in falconry typically begin from the falconer's gloved hand, where the fleeing bird or rabbit is pursued in a horizontal chase. The goshawk's flight in pursuit of prey is characterized by an intense burst of speed often followed by a binding maneuver, where the goshawk, if the prey is a bird, inverts and seizes the prey from below. The goshawk, like other accipiters, shows a marked willingness to follow prey into thick vegetation, even pursuing prey on foot through brush.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2013). "Accipiter gentilis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Avibase: Eastern Goshawk". avis.indianbiodiversity.org. 
  3. ^ (Latin) 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). p. 89. "F. cera pedibusque flavis, corpore cinereo maculis fuscis cauda fasciis quatuor nigricantibus" 
  4. ^ "Northern Goshawk". Birds of Quebec. Retrieved 2007-03-18. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Raptors of the World by Ferguson-Lees, Christie, Franklin, Mead & Burton. Houghton Mifflin (2001), ISBN 0-618-12762-3.
  6. ^ a b Goshawk- Life History. Allaboutbirds.org. Retrieved on 2012-12-21.
  7. ^ Johnson, Donald R (1989). "Body size of Northern Goshawks on coastal islands of British Columbia". Wilson Bull. 101 (4): 637–639. 
  8. ^ Northern Goshawk – Accipiter gentilis. Avis.indianbiodiversity.org (2009-12-04). Retrieved on 2012-12-21.
  9. ^ "Northern Goshawk". Retrieved 2012-01-23. 
  10. ^ a b c Johnsgard, P. (1990). Hawks, Eagles, & Falcons of North America, Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, ISBN 0874746825.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Squires, J., R. Reynolds (1997). Northern Goshawk. Birds of North America, 298: 2–27.
  12. ^ a b c Smithers, B L; Boal, C W and Andersen, D E (2005). "Northern Goshawk diet in Minnesota: An analysis using video recording systems". Journal of Raptor Research 39 (3): 264–273. 
  13. ^ Lewis, Stephen B.; Titus, Kimberly; Fuller, Mark R. (2006). "Northern Goshawk Diet During the Nesting Season in Southeast Alaska". Journal of Wildlife Management 70 (4): 1151. doi:10.2193/0022-541X(2006)70[1151:NGDDTN]2.0.CO;2. 
  14. ^ Accipiter gentilis – northern goshawk. Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan
  15. ^ Northern Goshawk (Accipter gentilis). pauldfrost.co.uk
  16. ^ Hogan, C. Michael (ed.) 2010. American Kestrel. Encyclopedia of Earth, U.S. National Council for Science and the Environment, Cleveland
  17. ^ Woodbridge, B; Hargis C.D. (2006). Northern goshawk inventory and monitoring technical guide. Gen. Tech. Report WO-71. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.
  18. ^ Lockwood, W B (1993). The Oxford Dictionary of British Bird Names. OUP. ISBN 978-0-19-866196-2. 
  19. ^ Jameson, E. W., Jr. (1962). The Hawking of Japan, the History and Development of Japanese Falconry, Davis. Calif. 97 p. 2
  20. ^ a b Beebe, F.L. and Webster, H.M. (2000) North American Falconry and Hunting Hawks, 8th edition, ISBN 0-685-66290-X

Further reading[edit]

Identification[edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Contains two groups: atricapillus of North America and gentilis of Eurasia (AOU 1998). See Whaley and White (1994) for information on geographic variation in North America. Validity of subspecies apache is questionable (see Banks 1995).

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The scientific name of northern goshawk is Accipiter gentilis Linnaeus (Accipitridae) [1,2]. Subspecies recognized by the American Ornithologists' Union (5th edition) [1] include:

Accipiter gentilis atricapillus (Wilson), northern goshawk

Accipiter gentilis laingi (Taverner), Queen Charlotte goshawk
Some scientists recognize an additional subspecies, Accipiter gentilis apache Van Rossem, as inhabiting parts of the southwestern United States and Mexico, though this subspecies is not recognized by the American Ornithologists' Union or the US Fish and Wildlife Service [10,26,48].
SYNONYMS:

None
  • 1. American Ornithologists' Union. 1957. Checklist of North American birds. 5th ed. Baltimore, MD: The Lord Baltimore Press. 691 p. [21235]
  • 10. Boyce, Douglas A., Jr.; Reynolds, Richard T.; Graham, Russell T. 2006. Goshawk status and management: what do we know, what have we done, where are we going? Studies in Avian Biology. 31: 312-325. [84260]
  • 2. American Ornithologists' Union. 2013. The A.O.U. check-list of North American birds, 7th ed., [Online]. American Ornithologists' Union (Producer). Available: http://checklist.aou.org/. [50863]
  • 26. Kennedy, Patricia L. 2003. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentiles atricapillus): a technical conservation assessment, [Online]. Golden, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region (Producer). 142 p. Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/projects/scp/assessments/northerngoshawk.pdf [2012, February 9]. [84509]
  • 48. Squires, John R.; Reynolds, Richard T. 1997. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), [Online]. Issue No. 298. In: Poole, A., ed. The birds of North America Online. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Producer). Available: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/298 [2012, November 30]. [84032]

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Common Names

northern goshawk

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