Northern Goshawk is legendary for its ferocity, beauty and
amazing flight skills. In ancient Persia it was called Baz-Nama,
the King Hawk, and in medieval Europe it was the most prized
of all falconry hawks. Linnaeus named it Accipiter gentilis
in the 16th century, for its nobility (gentilis) and awesome
ability to seize (accipere) squirrels, rabbits, birds, and
other prey on the fly.
America, goshawks inhabit most mature forests types west of
the continental divide from Canada and Alaska through every
western state into southern Mexico (range
map). East of the divide, they are largely restricted
to southern Canada and the northern U.S.
most hawks soar and dive over open meadows, streams, tundra,
estuaries or coastlines, goshawks are more likely to be seen
within forests, darting through the trees beneath the canopy.
Over hundreds of thousands of years, they have developed short,
powerful wings and protective eye tufts which enable them
fly (mostly unscathed) through the forest understory and canopy
in pursuit of songbirds and squirrels. Their long, rudder-like
tails gives them a acrobatic ability to spin around trees
and quickly dive under nestlingsshrubs and brush. A subspecies
called the Queen Charlotte goshawk (Accipiter gentilis laingi)
has evolved to live within the dark rainforests of southeast
Alaska, the Queen Charlotte Islands, Vancouver Island, and
likely western Washington and Oregon. In the Southwest, a
subspecies called the Apache Goshawk (A.g. apache) has evolved
to live within the dry sunny forests of southern Arizona,
southern New Mexico, and the Sierra Madre in Mexico. The Northern
Goshawk subspecies (A.g. atricapillus) inhabits the rest of
the species' range.
as mature and old growth forests become rarer and rarer, so
do goshawks. Numerous scientific studies have documented lower
or declining goshawk populations in heavily logged forests.
Goshawks are extremely rare today in the clearcut dominated
coast ranges from California to Washington State and in the
Sierra Madre. Because the goshawk is both a top level predator
and an ecological engineer, its decline contributes to the
unraveling of forest ecosystems, stressing other forest dependent
species. As a voracious predator of squirrels, jays, flickers,
rabbits, snowshoe hares and songbirds, goshawks play an important
role in the forest food web. As builders of numerous, large
nests, goshawks provide essential nesting opportunities for
many species which can not build their own nests. Each pair
of goshawks build and maintain between three and nine nests
within their home range, but use and defend only one (or less)
per year. While goshawk nests are especially important to
sensitive or imperiled species such as Spotted Owls and Great
Gray Owls they are also used by Cooper's Hawks, Red-Tailed
Hawks, Great Horned Owls, Short-eared Owls, squirrels, and
many other species. Within a decade of goshawks being driven
from a forest, their nests collapse from lack of maintenance
and a precious wildlife habitat is lost.
order to save the goshawk and the forests it depends upon,
the Center for Biological Diversity has launched an ambitious
campaign to protect all three subspecies and all mature forests
from Alaska to Mexico. At the federal level, the Center is
seeking to list the Queen Charlotte goshawk as a endangered
species in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon,
and the Apache and Northern Goshawks as endangered species
in all U.S. States west of the continental divide. At the
regional level, the Center is leading efforts to protect goshawks
in the Southwest, the Sierra Nevada, Utah, and Southeast Alaska.
At the local level, we are challenging timber sales, grazing
allotments, and road construction which destroys goshawk habitat.
The Center is also conducting scientific research on goshawks
and publishes a online review of goshawk research and conservation