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  • Species Profile for Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)
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Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)

Candidate Info | Federal Register | Recovery | Critical Habitat | Conservation Plans | Petitions | Life History

Listing Status:   

General Information

The Northern Goshawk is a large hawk of about 55-61 cm in length, the largest of all the accipiters. Females are larger than males. Some characteristic features of this hawk are its broad wings and a long rounded tail. Plumage of an adult male is typically brown and slate gray with a black cap on the head. Under parts are light grey with fine black vertical streaks. The tail is dark grey with a white fluffy underside. The female plumage is similar to the male plumage, but browner in color. The feet and legs of the Northern Goshawk are yellow and the eyes are red. Juvenile plumage is dark brown to black with buff, white and light brown streaking. The tail is dark brown with wavy dark brown and whitish bands, and the underside lacks the fluffiness of the adult tail. The legs and feet of juveniles are greenish gray (Squires and Reynolds 1997).


Current Listing Status Summary
Status Date Listed Lead Region Where Listed
Southwest Region (Region 2)

» Candidate Information

Candidate Notice of Review Documents (Showing 2 of 2)
Date Citation Page Title
11/15/1994 59 FR 58982 59028 ETWP; Animal Candidate Review for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species.
11/21/1991 56 FR 58804 58836 ETWP; Animal Candidate Review for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species; 56 FR 58804 58836

» Federal Register Documents

Most Recent Federal Register Documents (Showing 5 of 18: view all)
Date Citation Page Title
07-25-2005 70 FR 42533 42535 Notice of Intent to Conduct Public Scoping Meetings and to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement Related to the Family Forest Habitat Conservation Plan
06-10-2003 68 FR 34585 34586 Notice of Intent to Conduct Public Scoping and Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement Related to the King County , WA, Habitat Conservation Plan
04-28-2003 68 FR 22412 22414 Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement Regarding Proposed Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit to the Montana Department of Natural Resrouces and Conservation on Foreted State Trust Lands in the State of Montana
03-26-2003 68 FR 14581 14583 Availability of Tagshinney Tree Farm Conservation Plan, Lewis County, WA
01-05-2001 66 FR 1089 1091 Availability of a Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Tacoma Water Department Habitat Conservation Plan, King County, WA

» Recovery

No recovery information is available for the Northern goshawk, .

» Critical Habitat

No critical habitat rules have been published for the Northern goshawk, .

» Conservation Plans

Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP) (learn more) (Showing 5 of 8: view all)
HCP Plan Summaries
Cal. Dept. of Corrections Statewide Electrified Fence Project
Cedar River Watershed HCP
City of Tacoma, Tacoma Water HCP
Plum Creek Timber Central Cascades HCP (aka I-90 HCP)
Port Blakely RB Eddy Tree Farm
Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCA): (learn more) (Showing 1 of 1)
CCA Plan Summaries
Spring Mountains National Recreation Area
Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA): (learn more) (Showing 1 of 1)
CCAA Plan Summaries
Tagshinney Tree Farm

» Petitions

Most Recent Petition Findings (Showing 5 of 5)
Date Citation Page Title Finding
06/29/1998 63 FR 35183 35184 ETWP; Notice of 12-Month Finding on a Petition To List the Northern Goshawk in the Contiguous United States West of the 100th Meridian
  • Notice 12 month petition finding, Not warranted
09/29/1997 62 FR 50892 50896 ETWP; 90-Day Finding for a Petition To List the Northern Goshawk in the Contiguous United States West of the 100th Meridian
  • Notice 90-day Petition Finding, Substantial
06/06/1996 61 FR 28834 28835 ETWP; 90-Day Finding for a Petition To List the Northern Goshawk in the Western United States
  • Notice 90-day Petition Finding, Not substantial
06/25/1992 57 FR 28474 28476 ETWP; Notice of 90-day Finding on petition to List the Northern Goshawk as Threatened or Endangered in the Western United States; 57 FR 28474 28476
  • Notice 90-day Petition Finding, Not substantial
01/07/1992 57 FR 546 548 ETWP; Notice of 90-Day Finding on Petition to List the Northern Goshawk as Endangered or Threatened in the Southwestern United States; 57 FR 546 548
  • Notice 90-day Petition Finding, Not substantial

» Life History

Habitat Requirements

For habitat Northern Goshawks generally prefer mature or old-growth conifer, mixed hardwood-conifer, birch, or aspen forest for nesting. However, they have been found to also be generalists in terms of the types and ages of forests they can utilize, and can also found in younger forests intermingled with mature trees with high canopies for nesting (Goodrich and Smith 2008, p. 112; Kennedy 2003, p. 55). Sites near forest openings or edges for foraging also appear to be a preference for the Northern Goshawk (Goodrich and Smith 2008, p. 112).

Food Habits

The Northern Goshawk diet may vary depending on season and region, but generally consists of a combination of small rodents, squirrels (especially Richardsonís Ground Squirrels in the west), large songbirds and small to medium-sized game birds (Wheeler 2003, p. 197). The Northern Goshawk is primarily a perching and aerial forager, but Northern Goshawks often pursue prey on foot. Avian prey is also frequently caught on the ground or at low altitudes. Aerial pursuit may occur along a forest floor or in small woodland opening or woodland edges and over large open areas (Wheeler 2003, p. 197).

Movement / Home Range

The year-round range of the Northern Goshawk occurs in the majority of the western United States from Western Montana across to southeastern Montana and down to Arizona and New Mexico. The year-round range also covers the majority of the northeastern states from Pennsylvania north. Wintering areas are intermingled with year-round areas in the far western United States such as northern California and Washington, and cover most of the northern United States from western Montana across southern Minnesota and the Great Lakes region over into southern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, southern Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts (Squires and Reynolds 1997). The Northern Goshawk is a short to medium distance migrant that flocks during migration. Migratory behavior is more common in the northern regions than southern regions and migrants often follow patterns of abundance of prey such as grouse and hares (Goodrich and Smith 2008, p. 112). The Northern Goshawk displays a variety of migration patterns including altitudinal migration. In contrast to other birds that begin fall migration as early as July, the Northern Goshawk does not begin migration until forced to do so by extreme winter weather or lack of food (Lincoln 1935, p. 16). Generally, fall migration appears to occur between August and November in the western states. Spring flights are less well documented and may be more dispersed (Goodrich and Smith 2008, p. 113).

Reproductive Strategy

Northern Goshawk pairs usually return to their nesting grounds around March or early April, with some returning as early as February. Some pairs have been observed to remain near their nests the entire year. Nests are typically constructed in the largest coniferous or deciduous trees available, and are constructed in the lower part of the tree. Eggs are produced in late April or early May with only one brood being produced per season. Clutch sizes usually range from around 2-4 eggs. Nestlings are semi-altricial when born and are usually ready for flight from the nest at around 35-36 days, with age of complete independence averaging around 70 days (Squires and Reynolds 1997).


The primary threat to Northern Goshawk populations is thought to be loss of its preferred nesting habitat for purposes of timber harvest and through other types of habitat alteration. However, due to the lack of data on Northern Goshawk populations, the degree of the effect of habitat modification on the Northern Goshawk is unknown (Kennedy 2003, p. 8).

» Other Resources

NatureServe Explorer Species Reports -- NatureServe Explorer is a source for authoritative conservation information on more than 50,000 plants, animals and ecological communtities of the U.S and Canada. NatureServe Explorer provides in-depth information on rare and endangered species, but includes common plants and animals too. NatureServe Explorer is a product of NatureServe in collaboration with the Natural Heritage Network.

ITIS Reports -- ITIS (the Integrated Taxonomic Information System) is a source for authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.

FWS Digital Media Library -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library is a searchable collection of selected images, historical artifacts, audio clips, publications, and video.