This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the northern goshawk.
Raptors like the goshawk are birds that have been both revered and persecuted for their strength and fierceness. In the past, there were bounties on northern goshawks. It wasn’t until 1972 that all raptors received the protections of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The northern goshawk is the largest of the three accipiter species found here, birds with relatively short, rounded wings and long tails. Northern goshawks are the most widely distributed accipiter in the world, occurring in North America, Europe, Asia, Japan and northern Africa.
These are secretive forest birds, nesting in mature and old-growth forests, often near openings with water nearby. Pairs may build and maintain up to eight large alternate nests within their nesting area. They fiercely defend their nest site and are known to attack animals, including humans, that venture too close.
While hunting, agile northern goshawks alternate short, silent flights with perching to look for prey including birds, small mammals, reptiles and insects. They strike feet first and will chase dinner across land, into trees and shrubs and even into water.
Adult northern goshawks have a gray-blue back, whitish streaked undersides and red eyes. Immatures, like the one pictured here, don’t reach full adult plumage until the third year and are brownish with speckled undersides and yellow eyes. Both versions show an identifying white eye line.
Sensitive to the disturbances of logging activities, timber harvest is a threat to breeding success, and the U.S. Forest Service in many regions requires that minimizing impacts to this bird be included in management plans.
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