The Northern Goshawk


The Northern Goshawk

Welcome to my Northern Goshawk Page, On this page you will find Information on the goshawk and Goshawks as a species. Also you will find out about two of the Goshawks Subspecies, the Red Goshawk and the Grey Goshawk.

  • Latin Name – accipiter gentilis
  • Wingspan – 90 – 130cm
  • Tail Length - 22-27cm
  • Total Length - 49-65cm
  • Male Size in Relation to Female – 72%

Northern Goshawk – Description

The Goshawk is a medium to large sized hawk bird with a big range within the temperate regions. It is a highly successful hunter and has adapted to many different environments. Goshawks, as with all accipiters have short wings in relation to their size for flying through confined spaces and very long tails for extra manoeuvrability and agility in flight.

The tail acts like a big fan-like wind brake which is used for sudden changes of direction during a hunt and also for slowing down quickly to avoid extreme impact and for balance whilst perching on branches.

Goshawks usually fly with short fast flaps and then a short glide, their flight is fast because of their heavy wing load (more weight in relation to surface area of wing) although at times they can soar and ring up on thermals. This they do not do so often as the Eagles and buzzard family due to the fact that most of their time is spent in enclosed forested areas.

Hunting and Weaponry

The Northern Goshawk has fantastic eyesight like most birds of prey. They are very highly tuned to movement and these birds will chase things purely out of impulse reactions.

All accipiters have very fast metabolisms which give them very fast reflex reactions, this ultimately gives them the edge when chasing fast and elusive quarry. Goshawks have a very high kill rate when hunting.

They employ a lot of the element of surprise and will often still hunt. This means sitting on a branch, preferably out of sight until an unsuspecting prey animal wonders underneath them. The Goshawk will then swoop down, (and believe me they are incredibly quick) and grab it.

Often the prey isn’t even aware of the presence of the goshawk until it’s too late. Goshawks will take a very large variety of prey, in fact they are one of the most versatile in terms of hunting birds of all the raptors. Common prey species include;

  • Ground Squirrels
  • Tree Squirrels
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Mallard Ducks
  • Snowshoe Hares
  • Jackrabbits
  • Pigeons
  • Doves
  • Corvids
  • Passerines
  • Other raptors (especially the kestrel)

Great video dont you think!? Good on the rabbit, it has to be said! As you can see from the extensive prey species list, the Northern Goshawk is not fussy and will take pretty much anything.

One of the most successful features of this amazing bird is its ability to hunt both mammal and bird prey to the same degree of success. This in raptor terms is quite rare, most raptors and members of the owl species have evolved to specialise in catching either quarry in the air (Falcon Bird Species) or Prey on the ground (see my Eagle Facts page).

Being an all round hunter has proved to be the best selling point in the world of evolution for this accipiter and is one of the main reasons why it is quite so successful today. Another raptor that has managed to be a jack of all trades is the harris hawk. To find out more on the Harris Hawk please follow the link.

Northern Goshawk – Breeding

Northern Goshawk Adults begin the breeding cycle in march-april time and the female normally lays 2-4 eggs aroud may time. The incubation period lasts up to 40 days and the eggs take 1-2 days to hatch. Goshawk young quickly develop and will leave the nest after about a month.

During this period, (referred to as the brancher period), the eyass hawks cannot fly and so they will clamber over branches flapping constantly so as to build up flight muscles for a further 10 days.

Once the young hawks are fully fledged in the beautiful juvenile plumage, they are then ready to leave and will be completely independent for the rest of their lives. This, however can be a very short period because Goshawks have a low survival rate in the first year. Only the most successful hunters among them will survive.

In Falconry and conservation in America, Goshawk eggs and eyass chicks are taken from the nest. Normally the smallest chicks are taken as these would be the ones to die in the wild. By taking them from the nest, the theory is that the falconer is giving the chick another chance.

In the UK, all forms of nest robbing is completely illegal and falconers breed goshawks in captivity.

The Grey Goshawk

  • Grey Goshawk – accipiter Novaehollandiae
  • Wingspan - 70-110
  • Tail Length – 20-24cm
  • Total Length – 40-55cm
  • Size Of Male in Relation to Female – 65%

The Grey Goshawk or white goshawk in the paler morph is an extremely beautiful, medium sized subspecies of the Northern Goshawk. The Grey Goshawk is found in the Australia’s, and although rarer and less widely distributed than its cousin, in its region it is also very successful as a hunter, prey species of the grey goshawk include;

  • Rabbits
  • Possums
  • Bats
  • Birds
  • Reptiles
  • Insects

Because of their much bigger size, the female grey goshawk is more versatile and can catch a lot more prey species than the male. Sexual dimorphism is strong in accipiters.

The Red Goshawk

  • Red Goshawk - Erythrotriorchis radiatus
  • Wingspan – 111-136cm
  • Tail Length – 20-27cm
  • Total Length – 46-61cm
  • Male Size in relation to female – 73%

The Red Goshawk used to be seen as a larger subspecies of the other goshawks. However experts have now agreed that the red goshawk is actually not a goshawk at all but is a large buteonine.

The red goshawk is indigenous to Australia and is one of the rarest and most endangered birds of prey in the world. It hunts mainly water birds and because of its size is a very imposing predator. The red goshawk is closely related to the black breasted buzzard and the square tailed kite.

The red goshawk is found usually in savannahs in northern Australia and Water Course ways. If you get to see one of these birds, then you are a lucky chappy! (im sorry that I do not have a photo for this bird. If anyone would like to send one in I would hugely appreciate it!)

Northern Goshawk in Falconry

The Goshawk is without a question the main bird flown globally in falconry. Ever since falconry began Goshawks have been the stable companion for a falconer due to their incredible speed, lightning reactions, savagery in the field and trainable nature (sometimes).

In fact due to their amazing hunting prowess they were nicknamed the cook’s bird because of their ability to provide for the pot. Imagine how it was all those years ago, even before projectile weapons and then just imagine how useful having a trained goshawk would have been. Almost essential for many, the goshawk would have been an indispensable companion.

The Northern Goshawk is trained to the lure and the fist and comes equally well to both. One of the main things to worry about with goshawks is weight control. Due to their fast metabolisms, goshawks can drop very suddenly in weight and if you are not careful this can lead to serious complications and even death of the bird in a very short space of time.

Goshawks can suffer from hypoglycaemic fits if their blood sugar goes too low, so it is necessary to always watch out for this. Male goshawks can be flown at rabbits, ducks, moorhens (not advised because too easy), pigeons, crows, rooks, and many more species.

The female can be flown at all the same species but is also flown at hares because of her size advantage over the male. Females are slightly less agile in the air but make up for it in overall speed and power.

All in all the Northern Goshawk is a formidable with an impeccable history in the sport. They can however be possessive and especially imprinted goshawks can show quite a lot of aggression. Goshawks are sometimes tame hacked in the training process. This means an imprint goshawk is then returned to the wild for a short while to kick start its natural wild nature and stop feeding aggression and jealousy later on.

I hope you have enjoyed my Northern Goshawk Page and have found the red goshawk and grey goshawk facts interesting. The Goshawk is a wonderful bird and I hope I have transferred some of my enthusiasm for these great raptors.

Please feel free to browse the rest of the site :) Also you can submit your own page on the goshawk or anything falconry related in the box below. Its very easy to do and can be as short as you like. Any falconry experience you have had or training techniques you use would be greatly appreciated and I will upload it straight away.