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North Dakota's

Federally Listed Endangered, Threatened, and Candidate Species – 1995

Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)

JPG -- species photo gif--species map

Status: Former Candidate (Note: As of February 28, 1996, this species is no longer listed as a Candidate species. However, it remains a species of management concern.)

Historical Status:
There are no nesting records of the goshawk in North Dakota. However, the bird has been observed in the Turtle Mountains area during the summer months, suggesting breeding activity. The goshawk historically migrated through North Dakota.

Present Status:
The goshawk is uncommon to rare throughout its range. It is found in Europe and Asia as well as North America. In North America it is primarily found in the forested areas of Canada, Alaska, the northern United States and the western mountain states. The bird irregularly migrates as far south as Mexico in the winter months when food is scarce. When food is plentiful it may spend the winter in its summer breeding range. The goshawk regularly migrates through North Dakota. Some birds winter in the state.

The goshawk is predominately a bird of conifer-dominated hardwoods. The most likely nesting habitat in North Dakota is the Turtle Mountains and Pembina River area, although no nests have been documented. During migration, goshawk may show up anywhere in the state.

Life History:
Approximately 1/4 of goshawks breed when one year old, 1/4 when two years old and the remainder at three years of age. The female goshawk is the dominant partner. She aggressively protects the nest from intruders, incubates the eggs, and feeds the young with little assistance from the male. The bulky nest is usually built in the crotch of a tree, 20 to 60 feet above the ground. Egg laying occurs in April to June. The 3 to 4 eggs are incubated 36 to 38 days. Young can fly from the nest when about 45 days. The goshawk feeds on rabbits, grouse, squirrels, crows and other small prey. One study reported the diet as being 54 percent birds, 37 percent mammals and 9 percent insects. The goshawk agilely and rapidly darts through the woods when in pursuit of prey. The smaller male is able to capture smaller and more agile prey. Captive goshawks have been known to live 20 years.

Aid to identification:
The goshawk is 19 to 27 inches long with the females larger than the males. Adults are uniformly slate gray on the back and light gray on the belly. A black band reaches from the eyes to behind the head. The eyes are a distinctive red color. The goshawk is best identified from the Cooper's hawk by size. The Cooper's hawk is smaller than a crow while the goshawk is noticeably larger.

Reasons for decline:
A thinning of goshawk egg shells has been noted in California, presumably because of pesticides in the environment and in its prey. Goshawk populations in New Mexico, Arizona and Alaska have been negatively impacted by logging and development.

Report any suspected goshawk nests to a natural resource agency.

The goshawk is occasionally used in the sport of falconry. The name goshawk comes from "goose hawk", although they rarely take geese in North America.

The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds by John Terres, 1982.

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