Photo by TRC Staff

Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)

Northern Goshawk by Jacosammie

Northern Goshawk by Jacosammie

Fun Fact

The Northern Goshawk is the largest accipiter in North America.


Goshawk is derived from the Anglo-saxon word gos for "goose" and havoc for "hawk." Gentiliis is Latin for "noble." The Northern Goshawk was named in a time when only nobility could fly this bird for falconry.

Conservation Status

IUCN Least Concern


Up to 11 years in the wild. 19 years in captivity.


A large accipiter that is blue-grey above and grey and barred below. The crown of head is a darker cap with dark ear coverts (feathers covering the ear canal) and a nearly white stripe that looks like an eyebrow. They have red eyes as an adult and yellow eyes as a Juvenile. Juveniles are brown with some variable spots and streaks and a very streaked belly. Can be seen perching inside canopy but sometimes more openly in early mornings.


53.1-64 cm (20.9-25.2 in)


103-117 cm (40.6-46.1 in)


631-1364 g (22.3-48.1 oz)


Holarctic distribution in America and Eurasia. In US they range from Alaska and Canada, down through the Rocky Mountains and into California, Arizona and New Mexico. Also in the Eastern U.S. throughout the Appalachians as well as the Great Lakes region. Usually sedentary but dispersive in summer, with populations in the far north of their range migrating south. (Range map below)


Found in tall forest woodlands, usually mature, with a preference to forest edges. Also found in small woods near cultivated land. Will extend into open forest tundra.


Mostly preys on large birds and mammals ranging from squirrels, rabbits and snowshoe hares. Depending on the location they will also occasionally take lizards, beetles and carrion. Can also be considered a significant predator of other raptors and owls. Hunts from a concealed perch or cruises forest edges with an inconspicuous approach and short chase. They catch their prey both from the air, the ground, or in trees. Can easily maneuver through forest and will purposely crash through branches to catch prey.


Solitary or pairs. Adults protect their territories fiercly during breeding season, attacking both animals and humans passing nearby. The elusive forest hawks can be seen high-circling during the spring time. Both sexes do an undulating flight with opening and closing wings and male will extend the display with a rollercoaster-like flight.


Season extends from mid-April through July. Nest is flat and untidy, made of sticks, and may be reused for multiple years. Nest are in trees but will nest on the ground in the arctic. A typical clutch is 3-4 eggs with an incubation period of 35-38 days. Fledging occurs between 35-42 days and young are independent at 70-90 days.

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