Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)

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).


  • Goodrich, L.J., and J.P. Smith. 2008. Raptor migration in North America. Pp. 37-149 in K.L. Bildstein, J.P. Smith, E. Ruelas Inzunza, and R.R. Veit (eds.), State of North America's Birds of Prey. Nuttall Ornithological Club, Cambridge, MA, and American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C
  • Kennedy, P.L. (2003, January 2). Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentiles atricapillus): a technical conservation assessment. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region. Web. 01 August 2011:
  • Lincoln, F.C. 1935. Migration of Birds. Circular 16, revision by J. Zimmerman (1998). U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Squires, John R. and Richard T. Reynolds. 1997. Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:
  • Wheeler, B.K., C.M. White and J.M. Economidy. 2003. Raptors of Western North America: The Wheeler Guide.

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

» Federal Register Documents

Federal Register Documents
Date Citation Page Title
2011-03-29 00:00:00.0 76 FR 17434 17439 Receipt of Application for an Endangered Species Act Incidental Take Permit
1996-06-06 00:00:00.0 61 FR 28834 28835 ETWP; 90-Day Finding for a Petition To List the Northern Goshawk in the Western United States
1998-06-29 00:00:00.0 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
2003-04-28 00:00:00.0 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
1997-09-29 00:00:00.0 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
1992-01-07 00:00:00.0 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
1995-11-17 00:00:00.0 60 FR 57722 57724 Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Receipt of an Application for the Proposed Issuance of a Permit To Allow Incidental Take of Threatened and Endangered Species on Plum Creek Timber Company, L.P., Lands in the I–90 Corridor, King and Kittitas Counties, WA
1992-01-07 00:00:00.0 57 FR 544 546 ETWP; Initiation of Status Review and Request for Information on the Northern Goshawk
2003-06-10 00:00:00.0 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
2003-03-26 00:00:00.0 68 FR 14581 14583 Availability of Tagshinney Tree Farm Conservation Plan, Lewis County, WA
1994-11-15 00:00:00.0 59 FR 58982 59028 ETWP; Animal Candidate Review for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species.
2001-01-05 00:00:00.0 66 FR 1089 1091 Availability of a Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Tacoma Water Department Habitat Conservation Plan, King County, WA
1999-01-20 00:00:00.0 64 FR 3066 3067 Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement Regarding Proposed Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit to the City of Tacoma, Washington, for Water Storage and Withdrawal and Forest Management in the Green River Watershed, King County, Washington
2000-03-15 00:00:00.0 65 FR 13947 13948 Extension of Public Comment Period for Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the Tacoma Water Department, Green River Watershed, Habitat Conservation Plan, King County, Washington
2000-02-16 00:00:00.0 65 FR 7856 7856 Extension of Comment Period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and Incidental Take Permit Application and Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan Submitted by Plum Creek Timberlands, L. P. for Lands in Montana, Idaho, and Washington
2000-01-31 00:00:00.0 4603 Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Receipt of an Application for Incidental Take Permits for the Tacoma Water Department, Green River Watershed, Habitat Conservation Plan, King County, Washington
2005-07-25 00:00:00.0 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
1992-06-25 00:00:00.0 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
1991-11-21 00:00:00.0 56 FR 58804 58836 ETWP; Animal Candidate Review for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species; 56 FR 58804 58836

» 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)
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
WDNR Forest Lands HCP
Western Riverside MSHCP (One permit w/ 22 permittees)
West Fork Timber HCP (formerly Murray Pacific)
Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCA): (learn more)
CCA Plan Summaries
Spring Mountains National Recreation Area
Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA): (learn more)
CCAA Plan Summaries
Tagshinney Tree Farm

» Petitions

» 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 Richardson’s 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.