Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Northern goshawk
Accipiter gentilis

 

Taxonomy
Occurence in Illinois
Status
Habitat associations
Guilds
Food-habits
Environmental associations
Life history
Management practices
References


TAXONOMY

 

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Falconiformes
  • Family: Accipitridae
  • Genus: Accipiter
  • Species: Accipiter gentilis
  • Authority: Linnaeus

Comments on taxonomy:
Locally referred to as hen hawk *18*.

 


OCCURENCE IN ILLINOIS

Generally arrives from breeding grounds of northern United States & Canada in November, remaining to early March *02,03,04,05,17*. Periodic invasions occur, most recently in the fall and winter of 1982-83, mostly in northern areas of state but as far south as Pope and Union Co. *03,04*. Bohlen (1978) states that in Illinois, species is an "occasional winter resident in north and rare in central & south."

 


STATUS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories
Forest Service Categories: S = recommended for regional sensitive status, F = forest listed species, M = management indicator species

Federal Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed for listing
Candidate for proposal Recovery plan approved Recovery plan received (USFWS)
Recovery plan in preparation Under notice of review Delisted
Migratory EPA indicator Forest Serv.- Shawnee species

State Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed

Other:

Game Furbearer Nongame protected
Sportfish Commercial Pest None of the above

Comments on status:
Species uncommon throughout most of its breeding range *11,16*.

 


HABITAT ASSOCIATIONS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories

General habitat:

Unknown Terrestrial Aquatic Riparian

USFS timber inventory forest size class:

Unknown Unstocked Seedling Sapling
Seedling/sapling Pole Mature Over mature

Land use and land cover:

Unknown   Urban Residential
Commercial
Industrial
Transportation, communication
Complex industrial/commercial
Mixed
Other
Agricultural Crop, pasture
Orchards, groves, nurseries
Feedlot
Other
Rangeland Herbaceous
Shrub and brush
Mixed
Forestland Deciduous
Evergreen
Mixed
Water Stream
Lake
Reservoir
Bay
Wetland Forest
Non-forest
Barren Salt flat
Beach
Sand
Rock
Mine
Transit
Mix

Forest cover types:

Cover typeStructural stageCanopy closureSeason
White-red-jack pine Mature
(9"dia. & 100 yrs. old)
All (0-100%) All
Spruce-fir Mature
(9"dia. & 100 yrs. old)
All (0-100%) All
Oak-pine Mature
(9"dia. & 100 yrs. old)
All (0-100%) All
Oak-hickory Mature
(9"dia. & 100 yrs. old)
All (0-100%) All
Aspen-birch Mature
(9"dia. & 100 yrs. old)
All (0-100%) All

Associated tree species:

  • Quaking aspen
  • Beech
  • Paper birch
  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Jack pine
  • Red pine
  • Poplar

Comments on species-habitat associations:
Goshawk a heavily wooded, remote wilderness species of Canada and northern United States *01,09,12,16*. Found in either coniferous or deciduous forests or a mixture of the two *02,10,12,16*. Burr et al. (1974) mentions that in Illinois, most goshawks were found in heavily wooded areas bordering open lands. DBH of nesting trees range from 8-24 in. *12,20*.

Important plant and animal association: Grouse, snowshoe hare.
Grouse and snowshoe hare mentioned as primary food sources *06,19*.

High value habitats

HabitatStructural stageSeason
All forest cover types Mature
(9"dia. & 100 yrs. old)
Fall/winter
Cropland and pasture All Fall/winter
Deciduous forest land Mature
(9"dia. & 100 yrs. old)
Fall/winter
Evergreen forest land Mature
(9"dia. & 100 yrs. old)
Fall/winter
Mixed forest land Mature
(9"dia. & 100 yrs. old)
Fall/winter

Species-habitat interrelations: Heavily wooded areas, either coniferous or deciduous, with bordering open lands appear to be important as wintering habitat which is when species may be found in Illinois *01,02,03*. Remote wilderness seems to be important in breeding range *11,12,16*.

 


GUILDS

Feed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonFeed-guilds
Cropland and pasture Special habitat All  
Forest Mature
(9" dia. & 100 yrs. old)
All  

Comments on feed-guilding:
Forages over open areas, cultivated fields, dense woodland or wood edges *08,10,12,15*. Prey may be eaten on ground, perch site or at an old nest *10,19,20*.

Breed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonBreed-Guilds
Evergreen forest land Mature
(9" dia. & 100 yrs. old)
Spring/summer  
Deciduous forest land Mature
(9" dia. & 100 yrs. old)
Spring/summer  

Comments on breed-guilding:
Does not breed in Illinois but in remote wilderness areas of northern United States and Canada *09,12,15,16,20*. Nest 20-75 ft. above ground in either deciduous or coniferous trees *08,10,11,12,20*.

 


FOOD-HABITS

Trophic level is CARNIVORE

Food itemLife stage/plant part
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Adult
Coleoptera (beetles) Adult
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths) Larva
Leporidae (rabbits, hares) Unknown
Sciuridae (squirrels, chipmunks, marmot, prairie dogs) Unknown
Cricetidae (woodrats, mice, voles, lemmings, muskrat) Unknown
Mustelidae (weasel, skunk, otter, mink) Unknown
Accipitridae (kites, hawks, eagles) Juvenile
Galliformes Unknown
Scolopacidae (curlews, sandpipers, snipes) Unknown
Columbidae (pigeons, doves) Unknown
Strigidae (owls) Unknown
Alcedinidae (kingfishers) Unknown
Picidae (woodpeckers) Unknown
Corvidae (jays, magpies, crows) Unknown
Muscicapidae (old world warblers, flycatchers, gnatcatchers) Unknown
Emberizinae (sparrows, longspurs) Unknown
Cardinalinae (cardinals) Unknown
Carrion Unknown
Juvenile:
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Adult
Coleoptera (beetles) Adult
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths) Larva
Leporidae (rabbits, hares) Unknown
Sciuridae (squirrels, chipmunks, marmot, prairie dogs) Unknown
Cricetidae (woodrats, mice, voles, lemmings, muskrat) Unknown
Mustelidae (weasel, skunk, otter, mink) Unknown
Accipitridae (kites, hawks, eagles) Juvenile
Galliformes Unknown
Scolopacidae (curlews, sandpipers, snipes) Unknown
Columbidae (pigeons, doves) Unknown
Alcedinidae (kingfishers) Unknown
Picidae (woodpeckers) Unknown
Corvidae (jays, magpies, crows) Unknown
Muscicapidae (old world warblers, flycatchers, gnatcatchers) Unknown
Emberizinae (sparrows, longspurs) Unknown
Cardinalinae (cardinals) Unknown
Carrion Unknown
Adult:
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Adult
Coleoptera (beetles) Adult
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths) Larva
Leporidae (rabbits, hares) Unknown
Sciuridae (squirrels, chipmunks, marmot, prairie dogs) Unknown
Cricetidae (woodrats, mice, voles, lemmings, muskrat) Unknown
Mustelidae (weasel, skunk, otter, mink) Unknown
Accipitridae (kites, hawks, eagles) Juvenile
Galliformes Unknown
Scolopacidae (curlews, sandpipers, snipes) Unknown
Columbidae (pigeons, doves) Unknown
Strigidae (owls) Unknown
Alcedinidae (kingfishers) Unknown
Picidae (woodpeckers) Unknown
Corvidae (jays, magpies, crows) Unknown
Muscicapidae (old world warblers, flycatchers, gnatcatchers) Unknown
Emberizinae (sparrows, longspurs) Unknown
Cardinalinae (cardinals) Unknown
Carrion Unknown

Comments on food habits: 
General: Eats a wide variety of animal matter *08,09,10,12,16,17,18,19,20*. Carrion may be included in diet *10*. Grouse and snowshoe hares mentioned as primary food source *06,19*.
Juvenile: Young fed torn up pieces of animal matter *09*. Juveniles assumed to feed as adults *00*.
Adult: Aggressive in pursuit of prey *10,12*. Prey taken on ground or in flight *16*. For other food habits, see [FG].


ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATIONS

General:

  • Ecotones: woodland/crop fields
  • Ecotones: woodland/old fields
  • Ecotones: coniferous trees/deciduous trees
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Coniferous forest: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: abandoned fields
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable forest
  • Human associations: national parks/historical landmarks
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries
  • Unknown

Limiting:

  • Ecotones: coniferous trees/deciduous trees
  • Coniferous forest: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments

Egg

  • Unknown

Feeding juvenile:

  • Ecotones: woodland/crop fields
  • Ecotones: woodland/old fields
  • Ecotones: coniferous trees/deciduous trees
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Coniferous forest: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: abandoned fields
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable forest
  • Human associations: national parks/historical landmarks
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Resting juvenile:

  • Ecotones: woodland/crop fields
  • Ecotones: woodland/old fields
  • Ecotones: coniferous trees/deciduous trees
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Coniferous forest: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: abandoned fields
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable forest
  • Human associations: national parks/historical landmarks
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Feeding adult:

  • Ecotones: woodland/crop fields
  • Ecotones: woodland/old fields
  • Ecotones: coniferous trees/deciduous trees
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Coniferous forest: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: abandoned fields
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable forest
  • Human associations: national parks/historical landmarks
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Resting adult:

  • Ecotones: woodland/crop fields
  • Ecotones: woodland/old fields
  • Ecotones: coniferous trees/deciduous trees
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Coniferous forest: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: abandoned fields
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable forest
  • Human associations: national parks/historical landmarks
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Breeding adult:

  • Ecotones: coniferous trees/deciduous trees
  • Coniferous forest: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable forest
  • Human associations: national parks/historical landmarks
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Comments on environmental associations:
General: Heavily wooded coniferous or deciduous forests, or a combination of the two in either remote wilderness areas or adjacent to open areas appear to be important to this species *01,02,03,10,11,12,16*. Tree species mentioned as either nesting or general habitat include birch, aspen, spruce, pin, fir, maple, beech, poplar, oak and hemlock *06, 07,11,12,20*.
Feeding juvenile: Young fed at nest, mainly by the female *09,16*. Fledglings fed in vicinity of nest *06*. Older juveniles assumed to feed as adults *00*.
Resting juvenile: Young assumed to rest at or near nest *00*. Older juveniles assumed to rest as adults *00*.
Feeding adult: Species forages over open areas, wood edges or dense woodlands *08,10,12*. Prey eaten on ground or at a perch site *10,19,20*.
Resting adult: A great deal of time is spent perched within cover while waiting for prey *10,12*. Mates roost together on the onset of nesting season *10*.
Breeding adult: Courtship activities take place at breeding grounds in Canada and northern United States *09,10,12*. Mating takes place near nest site *10*.


LIFE HISTORY

Origin: Native *02*.

Physical description: Species has long, narrow tail and rounded wings *01,08,09,16*. Female about 1/3 larger than male *12,16*. Sexes are alike in plumage with crown and cheek blackish, divided by a white line over its orange eye. Finely vermiculated, whitish underparts and blue-gray back *01,12,16*. 40-47" wingspread *16*. 19-27 inches long *01,16*. Female 1 lb.-8 oz. to 3 lb-4 oz. Male 1 lb. 7 oz. to 2 lb. 9 oz. *16*. Immatures with pale stripe over eye, tailbanding zig-zagged, brown above and brown streaking on white below *01,16*. Similar to young Cooper's hawk but larger *01*.

Reproduction: Species arrive on northern breeding grounds in early spring *06,10*. Courtship marked by the performance of aerial displays by both the male and female, food exchanges in mid air, pairs roosting together and screaming calls by females *10*. Mating begins with nest building, occurring about 10 times per day through the egg laying period. Mating takes place near the nest. Pairs mate for life *10*. Nesting sites are aggressively defended, mainly by the female *07,11,16*. Nest constructed in either coniferous or deciduous tree, 20 to 75 ft. above ground *10,11,12,20*. Dry twigs are placed in crotch of tree or occasionally out on a limb and lined with leafy boughs, bark and green coniferous sprigs *09,10,11,12*. May use nest of previous year or alternate between two or more nests within an established nesting area *06,10,11*. Usually one brood per season. A second clutch is layed if the first is destroyed *12*. Clutches are completed from early April to early June in the northern United States, usually from late April to early May *06,10,12,16*. Individual females lay their eggs at approximately the same time each year, at 3 day intervals *10*. Two to five eggs per clutch, usually 3-4 rough shells, pale blue or whitish, usually unmarked *06,09,10,11, 12,16*. Smaller clutches when food is scarce *09,10*. Incubation begins soon after first egg is laid, extending from 28-38 days *06,11,16*. Male takes over incubating only while female feeds *10,11,16*. Between 2.6 and 3.1 young per nest of which 1.7 to 2.5 fledge, see Reynolds et al. (1978). Young are born covered with a pinkish cinnamon down and develop rapidly with body near completely feathered at about 38 days *10,12*. A 28-37 day nesting period *06, 12*. Young are constantly brooded by the female for the first ten days of this period at which time the male does the hunting. After 2-3 weeks, female watches from nearby perch. Male brings food to nest at 4th week when young are old enough to tear it up themselves *10*. Young remain close to nest after fledging, on about the 35th day, where they are continued to be fed by parents *06,09,10*. Flight achieved at about 45 days *10*. After flying skills develop, young wander farther from nest but continue to center their activities around the nest *06*. Complete independence reached at about 42 days after fledging or 70 days after hatching *06,10*. Adult plumage begins in spring of first year, completed by the following fall *06*. Females have been reported to breed in immature plumage *06*. Reynolds et al. (1978) reported successes for hatching, fledging and nesting of 81.2, 72.0 and 90.4%, respectively.

Behavior: Eng et al. (1962) found that goshawks have a center of activity, including the nesting site, of about 5 acres and also a 5 mi. square foraging area. 8-10 ha. or 6-15 mi. nesting areas which contain several nests have been observed *06,10*. Species experiencing a southward range expansion *01,09*. Fall migration begins in September, continuing into November *09,17*. Peak movements appear first with juveniles in late October and later with adults in late November *17*. However, if winter food supply is sufficient, species may remain in breeding range *16*. Periodic invasions have been sited, most recently in the 1982 fall migration *02,03,04*. Species returns to northern breeding grounds by early March to late April *02,05*. Young begin to wander at 50 days of age and reach full independence at 70 days *06,10*. Goshawks are aggressive in their pursuit of prey, chasing quarry into bushes or other cover and then pursuing on foot *09,10,12*. May be found foraging over open land, wood edges, dense woodlands or cultivated fields *08,10,12,15*. Perching within cover while waiting for prey takes up much of species' time *10,12*. Goshawks are generally quiet in nature unless hunting or defending the nest, eggs or young *07,09,11,16*.

Limiting factors: Reynolds et al. (1978) suggested that food availability influences hatching and fledging success. Pesticide contamination does not appear to be threatening *09*.

Population parameters: Annual mortality rates of 50% for juveniles and 25% for adults have been reported *17*. Most nestling mortality occurs within 10 days of fledging *06*. Species lifespan may exceed 6 yrs. *16*.

 


MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Beneficial:

  • Maintaining undisturbed/undeveloped areas
  • Maintaining natural areas and nature preserves
  • Controlling land use and human activities
  • Agricultural practices other than those included in ifwis list (see comments)
  • Reforestation by direct seeding
  • Reforestation by natural regeneration
  • Developing/maintaining forest openings
  • Maintaining forests
  • Restricting human disturbance during migration, breeding, and nesting

Adverse:

  • Cutting and deforestation

Comments on management practices:
Species prefers heavily wooded, remote stands of timber *11,12,16*. The maintenance of heavily wooded areas bordering open lands including cultivated areas, would provide beneficial habitat *02,12, 15*. Protect critical nesting areas *08*. Establishment and preservation of heavily wooded areas, either coniferous, deciduous or a mixture of the two, would appear to be favorable to species *02,03,10,11,12,16*. Species protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and the Illinois Wildlife Code of 1971 *13,14*.

 


REFERENCES

0. IRISH, J.T. 1985. ILL. NAT. HIST. SURV., 607 E. PEABODY DR., CHAMPAIGN, IL. 61820. (217)333-6846.

1. PETERSON, R. 1980. A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS. 4 ED. HOUGHTON-MIFFLIN CO., BOSTON. 384 P.

2. BOHLEN, H.D. 1978. AN ANNOTATED CHECK-LIST OF THE BIRDS OF ILLINOIS ILLINOIS STATE MUS. POP. SCI. SER., VOL. IX. 156 P.

3. BURR, B.M. AND D.M. CURRENT. 1974. THE 1972-1973. GOSHAWK INVASION IN ILLINOIS. TRANS. ILL. STATE ACAD. SCI. 67(2):175-178.

4. KLEEN, V.M. 1983. FIELD NOTES. FALL MIGRATION. ILLINOIS AUDUBON BULL., NO. 204:45-56.

5. KLEEN, V.M. 1983. FIELD NOTES - SPRING MIGRATION. ILLINOIS AUDUBON BULL., NO. 206:28-41.

6. REYNOLDS, R.T. AND H.M. WRIGHT. 1978. DISTRIBUTION, DENSITY, AND PRODUCTIVITY OF ACCIPITER HAWKS BREEDING IN OREGON. WIL. BULL., 90(2): 182-196.

7. SHUSTER, W.C. 1976. NORTHERN GOSHAWK NESTING DENSITIES IN MONTANE COLORADO. WESTERN BIRDS 7(3):108-110.

8. MCGOWAN, J.D. 1972. THE HAWK IN ALASKA. ALASKA DEPT. OF FISH AND GAME. WILDL. NOTEBOOK SER., BIRDS: NO. 1.

9. HAMERSTROM, F. 1972. BIRDS OF PREY OF WISCONSIN. WISC. DEPT. OF NATL. RES., MADISON, WI. 64 P.

10. BROWN, L. AND D. AMADON. 1968. EAGLES, HAWKS AND FALCONS OF THE WORLD, VOL. 2. MCGRAW-HILL BOOK CO. PP. 445-945 + PLS. 57-165 + 94 MAPS.

11. HARRISON, H.H. 1979. A FIELD GUIDE TO WESTERN BIRDS' NESTS. HOUGHTON MIFFLIN CO., BOSTON. 279 PP.

12. BENT, A.C. 1937. LIFE HISTORIES OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS OF PREY, PART 1. U.S. NAT. MUS. BULL. 167. 409 PP. + 102 PLS.

13. U.S. FISH WILDLIFE SERVICE. 1983. CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS. TITLE 50. WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES. CHAPTER 1, PP. 11-18. 50 CFR 10.13. LIST OF MIGRATORY BIRDS. SPECIAL PUBL. FEDERAL REGISTER. GENERAL SERVICES ADMIN. OCTOBER 1.

14. ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION. 1980. CONSERVATION LAWS, CH. 61. WILDLIFE ART. II. PAR 2.2. REPRINTED FROM ILLINOIS REVISED STATUTES, 1979. WEST PUBL. CO., ST. PAUL, MN.

15. AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION. 1983. CHECK-LIST OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS, 6TH EDITION. ALLEN PRESS, INC. LAWRENCE, KN. 877 P.

16. TERRES, J.K. 1980. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. ALFRED A. KNOPF, INC. NEW YORK. 1109 PP.

17. MUELLER, H.C. AND D.D. BERGER. 1967. SOME OBSERVATIONS AND COMMENTS ON THE PERIODIC INVASIONS OF GOSHAWKS. AUK 84(2):183-191.

18. MENG, H. 1959. FOOD HABITS OF NESTING COOPER'S HAWK AND GOSHAWK IN NEW YORK AND PENNSYLVANIA. WIL. BULL. 71(2):169-174.

19. GRZYBOWSKI, J.A. AND S.W. EATON. 1976. PREY ITEMS OF GOSHAWKS IN SOUTHWESTERN NEW YORK. WIL. BULL. 88(4):669-670.

20. ENG, R.L. AND G.W. GULLION. 1962. THE PREDATION OF GOSHAWKS UPON RUFFED GROUSE ON THE CLOQUET FOREST RESEARCH CENTER, MINNESOTA. WIL. BULL. 74(3):227-242.

 


 

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