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Goshawk

The Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) a scarce, aerobatic woodland bird of prey

Goshawk
Goshawk

A large woodland bird of prey that can be difficult to see, apart from in winter and spring when it can more easily be spotted performing it’s ‘sky dance’, when both males and females display to each other.

Goshawks are comparable in size to Buzzards and females may even be a little larger.  Whilst the Goshawk is longer in the body with a longer tail than the Buzzard, its wingspan is actually shorter. Adults vary in colour between the sexes, with the female being slate grey above with a barred chest whilst the male is more blue in colouration. Juveniles are brown above and coarsely streaked brown below. Both males and females have a orange eye with a white supercilium (stripe) above the eye.

Goshawks are often confused with Sparrowhawks even though they are markedly bigger (especially the females), this may partly be due to the similarity in shape and the unlikelihood of be able to compare birds directly.

Length: Male 48-56cm; Wingspan: 93-105mm. Female 58-64cm; Wingspan: 108-127cm

Status in UK
Approx 410 pairs; GREEN listed; reintroduced resident

Population Trends
Already a rare and persecuted bird the Goshawk became extinct in the UK in the 19 century, mainly due to the attention of egg collectors and gamekeepers.

Goshawks reappeared in the 1960’s, partly due to deliberate reintroductions, but also from accidental introductions when escapees from falconers added to the population. The population has grown steadily and may be increasing although sightings are difficult to confirm, the birds are secretive and hard to find and birdwatchers unwilling to give away information on the location of these magnificent but still persecuted birds.

Habitat and Distribution
Prefers forests and open woodlands with open areas and rides – can be seen in these areas if close to farmland where pigeons are common.

The Goshawk is widespread but scarce, breeding across central England, the Peak District, the Pennines, East Anglia, Wales and southern Scotland.

Breeding
Builds nests of loose twigs and leaves in the forked branches of trees, usually 15-20m up. Builds fresh nests each year although they will re-use the foundations of nests from previous years. Has a single brood of 3-4 eggs; breeds from 2 years old with a typical lifespan of around 7 years.

Feeding
Birds and mammals upto the size of a Brown Hare; swift but short attacks usually from cover.

Other Diurnal Birds of Prey