California Raptor Center

Northern Goshawk

Scientific Name: Accipiter gentilis
(Accipiter is Latin for hawk, gentilis is Latin for ‘noble’).    

Size: Length: 9-12in Wingspan: 21-27in        

Weight: Female: 213g (average) (0.47lb) Male: 158g (average) (0.35lb)

Lifespan: In the wild may live to 13 or more years and in captivity may live 15 or more years.

ID: 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.

Hunting: Perches silently, waiting and watching for prey. Switches perches after brief periods. Descends on prey rapidly, maneuvering through forest vegetation or willingly crashing through it.

Prey: Consumes birds, mammals, invertebrates and reptiles of moderate to large size with prey weighing up to one-half as much as itself.

Breeding: 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. The typical clutch size is 2 to 4 eggs, which are laid in 2 to 3 day intervals. The clutch begins to hatch within 28 to 38 days of laying. 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.

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.

Status: 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.