Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)


Peak Migration: mid Oct – early Nov
Record Daily High: 1068 on Oct 15, 1982
Record Seasonal High: 4963 in 1972

The Northern Goshawk is one of the trademark species observed at Hawk Ridge; a place where more can be observed than anywhere else in North America.

Goshawk originated as a shortened version of “goose hawk” or “grouse hawk.”

Other names: Chicken hawk, “Gos”

Hunting habits: Primary prey includes medium-sized birds and mammals including hare, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, weasels, ducks, grouse, crows, smalls hawks, owls, woodpeckers, large songbirds, and occasionally some reptiles and insects.

Nesting habits: Generally nests in large deciduous or coniferous trees depending on availability; often among the largest trees of the stand. Nest height varies considerably from 4 to 27 meters (13 to x 90) and usually below the canopy. Clutch size usually 2-4, rarely 1 or 5 eggs; eggs hatch in 36-38 days, and young leave the nest when 41-43 days old.

Migrating habits: Migration usually begins by mid-September and can continue into December. In most years, only a portion of the population leaves the breeding range and juveniles tend to migrate earlier than adults. In the early 1970’s (1972 and 1973), the 1980’s (1982 and 1983), 1990’s (1992 and 1993) and 2000’s (2001 and 2002) over 1,000 Northern Goshawk were counted. This represented an approximate ten-year cycle of major “invasions” similar to the

well-known cycles of lynx and hare in Canada. However, in recent years, no invasions have been observed. There is much speculation on the reasons for the lack of an invasion, but low Goshawk populations, changes in habitats and landscapes in Canada, and climate change have all been suggested.

Length: 46-62 cm (18 – 24 inches)

Wingspan: 98-115 cm (38 – 45 inches)

Weight: Females average 1059 grams (2 lbs 5 oz); males 816 grams (1 lb, 13 oz). In the world of raptors, females are bigger, stronger, and usually more aggressive than males.

Life expectancy: Maximum lifespan is listed as at least 11 years. However, a female Goshawk banded at Hawk Ridge on 17 October 1982 was trapped by a fur trader in Alberta, Canada on 23 July 1996. Based on age of capture it would have been over 16 years old. One Goshawk caught at Hawk Ridge on 31 October 1992 was caught again on 12 October 2004 when it was at least 14 years old. A falconer’s goshawk lived in captivity almost 19 years.

Suggested reading: Squires, J.R. and R.T. Reynolds. 1997. Northern Goshawk in Birds of North America, No. 298.

Image Credits: Michael Furtman

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