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Is the Goshawk right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Northern Goshawk

Scientific name: Accipiter gentilis

The basics:
The Goshawk, North America's largest Accipiter, is a widespread forest species found in the Old World as well as the New. This large, strong, and highly maneuverable bird of prey has a long history in falconry, where it has been one of the most revered species for centuries if not millennia. In his classic, A Falconry Manual, Frank L. Beebe wrote, “It could be said humans rode out of the darkness of pre-history astride a horse with a goshawk or a saker on their left hands.”

Because of the licensing and expertise required to be a responsible owner of a bird of prey, the following information is offered only as a hint of what you will need to learn to work with Goshawks. There's no substitute for hands-on training, which we strongly recommend that you pursue before trying to acquire any bird of prey.

Goshawks are not rare, but they're tougher to see in the wild compared to many other Accipiters. They seem to prefer undisturbed forests, often in the north, where they can take advantage of the vegetation to provide cover and allow them to sneak up on their prey. They are versatile, capable of catching both birds and mammals. Indeed, these powerful hunters can even capture other raptors such as smaller Accipiters or even the smallest American falcon, the American Kestrel.

Like all Accipiters, Goshawks are relatively short-winged and long-tailed hunting hawks, but they stand out from their cousins, and not just because of their larger size. The adults have blackish heads with wide white “eyebrows” that emphasize fiery eyes that range in color from orange to red. Males are smaller than females. Average weights are given for a sample from North America, but European females may be even larger.

Male: 912 grams (32 oz.)
Female: 1,137 grams (40 oz.)

Average size:
Male: 49 centimeter (19 in.)
Female: 58 centimeters (23 in.)

15 - 20 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Goshawk is highly prized for its intelligence and versatility, and it is the rare falconry bird that can capture a very wide variety of both winged and mammalian prey. It is also courageous and tenacious and has been reported to actually go into thick cover, on foot if necessary, in pursuit of its quarry. In ancient times, before the invention of firearms, it often kept the cooking pot filled, since it was willing to capture a variety of food suitable for its human owners, as well as its own appetites. However, this determined bird can be aggressive, and it is not recommended to the inexperienced.

Goshawks are hawks of higher elevations and northern latitudes, and they are well adapted to cooler climates. Because they are heavily coveted birds, it might be wise to invest in a good security system for the aviary. Like most other birds of prey, they will appreciate a water bath for bathing.

The Goshawk is a carnivore that needs to consume some whole prey in order to allow its digestive system to work properly. In the wild, this predator consumes a varied diet of both birds and mammals, and you should duplicate a varied diet in captivity, providing small rodents, day old chicks, quail, doves, rabbits and hares, and more. They should also be provided with water.

Written by Elaine Radford


great education bird, great falconry bird, raptor conservation, exceptional prowess


wild trapped bird


beautiful plumage, mentor professional falconer, hunting various game

Goshawk Health Tip


From velid_falconer Feb 12 2014 5:19PM


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