Northern Goshawk

The Northern Goshawk is the largest accipiter (a family of raptor), weighing in slightly larger than a crow. Their greatest source of fame may be attributed to the image of a Northern Goshawk on the helmet of Attila the Hun.

Though somewhat of an infrequent sight in Delta, they are attracted to the plethora of feeding opportunities on agricultural fields. Otherwise they can be spotted soaring amongst edges of mixed or coniferous forests.

They can be identified by their dark blue-grey cap and body, their defined white “eyebrow”, their sharp red eyes, and a light, finely barred breast. In flight, they have heavier and shorter wing beats than their other relatives, the Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk, with a wingspan extending over 1 m (almost 3.5 ft)! Their tail feathers are relatively short and their wings broad.

Photo by Douglas Brown

Juveniles look quite different, though they also have the pronounced white eyebrow; their cap and bodies are speckled brown and there is heavy brown streaking over their buffy white chest. Their tail feathers have pronounced barring, unlike the adult whose bars have mostly morphed into a dark grey, blending well with their blue-gray feathers.

You may find them by their call, though it is unlikely as they tend to be more of the strong, silent type, only voicing their opinion when they feel threatened. When they do speak up their call is a harsh rising “kye, kye, kye” sound and may be accompanied by dive-bombing…indicating that anything from an unassuming individual to a sneaky predator should move away as quickly as possible.

The 007’s of the bird world, the goshawks are devious predators themselves, opting for the ambush method, and show great stamina when pursuing prey. You would not want to be a large bird, a rabbit, or a squirrel near a Northern Goshawk; if they have chosen you as their afternoon snack, you best be on a close lookout. Goshawks will sit silently for some time, observing their prey, working out the best way to take them by surprise, before suddenly springing up and diving in. Should the prey respond quickly enough and make a run for it, the goshawk will go great lengths to chase it down until success has been achieved.