Accipiter gentilis (*)
Accipiter gentilis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Systema Naturae ed.10 p.89
The Northern Goshawk (pronounced /ˈɡɒs.hɔːk/, from 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.
It is a widespread species that inhabits the temperate parts of the northern hemisphere. In Europe and North America, where there is only one goshawk, it is 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.
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).
The Northern Goshawk is the largest member of the genus Accipiter. It is a raptor with short, broad wings and a long tail, both adaptations to manoeuvring through trees in the forests it lives and nests in. Across most of the species's 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. 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 effect 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 are 49–57 cm (19–22 in) long with a 93–105 cm (37–41 in) wingspan. The female is much larger, 58–64 cm (23–25 in) long with a 108–127 cm (43–50 in) wingspan. Males of the smaller races can weigh as little as 630 grams (22 oz), whereas females of the larger races can weigh as much as 2 kg (4.4 lb). The juvenile is brown above and barred brown below. 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. 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.
Food and hunting
This species hunts 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, especially the Ruffed Grouse, snowshoe hare, and red squirrel in North America. Prey species may be quite diverse, including pigeons and doves, woodpeckers, corvids and passerines (species vary by region). Mammal prey includes rabbits and numerous tree squirrel and ground squirrel species. Waterfowl up to the size of the Mallard are sometimes preyed on. Prey is often smaller than the hunting hawk, but these birds will also occasionally kill much larger animals, up to the size of jack rabbits; prey also include the small raptor, the American Kestrel.
In the spring breeding season, Northern Goshawks perform a spectacular "undulating flight display", and this one the best time to see this secretive forest bird. At this time, the surprisingly gull-like call of this bird is sometimes heard. Adults defend their territories fiercely from 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 bear in North America. Other raptors are also attacked at nest sites, and often cede territory to, or are themselves killed by the aggressive Goshawk. The Northern Goshawk is considered a secretive raptor and rarely observed even in areas where nesting sites are common.
Adults return to their nesting territories by March or April and begin laying eggs in April or May. Territories often encompass a variety of habitats, however the immediate nest area is often found in a mature or old-growth forest. The clutch size is usually 2 to 4, but anywhere from 1 to 5 eggs may be laid. The eggs average 59 × 45 mm (2.3 × 1.8 in) and weigh about 60 g (2.1 oz). The incubation period can range from 28 to 38 days. The young leave the nest after about 35 days and start trying to fly another 10 days later. The young may remain in their parents' territory for up to a year of age.
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, and deliberate releases. 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.
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) .
The name "goshawk" is a traditional name from Anglo-Saxon gōshafoc, literally "goose hawk". The name implies prowess against larger quarry such as 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. In ancient European falconry literature, goshawks were often referred to as a yeoman's bird or the "cooks bird" due to their utility as a hunting partner 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.
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 seizes its prey in an inverted position below its winged quarry. The goshawk, like other accipiters, shows a marked willingness to follow prey into thick vegetation, even pursuing prey on foot through brush.
1. ^ BirdLife International (2008). Accipiter gentilis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 19 February 2009.
* Vinicombe, Keith (2005) Getting to grips with Goshawks Birdwatch 153:29-33 (a discussion of Goshawk identification)
Source: Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License