Goshawk

Accipiter gentilis

48-62cm

Appearance

The female is larger and browner than the male, but the sexes are otherwise similar. Plumage is mostly grey-brown on the upperparts and paler underneath with intricate dark barring. There's a dark patch behind the orange eye and a white 'eyebrow' above, and the legs and feet are yellow. Juveniles are mostly brown with buffish underparts marked with teardrops spots.

Habitat

Spread widely but sparsely across Britain, particularly in Wales and southern Scotland. Prefers mature coniferous or deciduous woods and forests for living and nesting, and also hunts in open country.

Character

When birds are gliding and circling, they often fan their tails, revealing the fluffy white undertail. Wings are held flat and the secondary flight feathers can give an 'S' curve to the rear of the wing. These birds are nimble hunters, moving through trees with ease, often hiding in cover before surprising prey. Usually seen in solitude except when nesting. When birds are displaying, they have an aerial performance that sees the white undertail feathers spread as the bird flap slowly then dives suddenly downwards; the female is more involved in this dance than the male.

Food

Diet includes birds, for example Jays, Woodpigeons, Pheasants, Starlings, crows and thrushes. Will also eat small mammals such as rabbits.

Breeding

Nesting begins in March or April, and nests can be found in the forks of trees, often reused from years before. Female lays 3 or 4 eggs which she incubates for 35-38 days; when the young hatch, she's fiercely territorial. After 35 days the young birds may leave the nest for nearby branches, and they fly 10 days after that.

Population

Most British birds stay near to their breeding sites, though young birds may explore in the late summer. Approximately 400 pairs live in the area.

Observation Tips

The New Forest in Hampshire, the Forest of Dean and Haldon Forest are established points for observation of raptors such as these. If lucky, the sky-dance displays may be witnessed on sunny days in late February and early March.

Voice

Utters a harsh 'kie-kie-kie' during breeding season, and also if alarmed.
Back to Bird Index
Other Birds
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica Barn Owl Tyto alba Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria Bean Goose Anser fabalis Bearded Tit/Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus Bee-eater Merops apiaster Bewick's Swan Cygnus columbianus Bittern Botaurus stellaris Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros Black Tern Chlidonias niger Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica Blackbird Terdus merula Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus Bluethroat Luscinia svecica Brambling Fringilla montifringilla Brent Goose Branta bernicla Buzzard Buteo buteo Canada Goose Branta canadensis Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus Carrion Crow Corvus corone Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax Coal Tit Periparus ater Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto Common Gull Larus canus Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Common Scoter Melanitta nigra Common Tern Sterna hirundo Coot Fulica atra Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Corncrake Crex crex Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea Crane Grus grus Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus Cuckoo Cuculus canorus Curlew Numenius arquata Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata Dipper Cinclus cinclus Dotterel Charadrius morinellus Dunlin Calidris alpina Dunnock Prunella modularis Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca Eider Somateria mollissima Fieldfare Turdus pilaris Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis Gadwall Anas strepera Gannet Morus bassanus Garden Warbler Sylvia borin Garganey Anas querquedula Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus Goldcrest Regulus regulus Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus Golden Pheasant Chrysolophus pictus Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria Goldeneye Bucephala clangula Goosander Mergus merganser Goshawk Accipiter gentilis Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor Great Northern Diver Gavia immer Great Skua Catharacta skua Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major Great Tit Parus major Great White Egret Ardea alba Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus Green Woodpecker Picus viridis Greenshank Tringa nebularia Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Grey Partridge Perdix perdix Grey Phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea Greylag Goose Anser anser Guillemot Uria aalge Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus Herring Gull Larus argentatus Hobby Falco subbuteo Honey-buzzard Pernis apivorus Hooded Crow Corvus cornix Hoopoe Upupa epops House Martin Delichon urbica Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus Jackdaw Corvus monedula Jay Garrulus glandarius Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Kingfisher Alcedo atthis Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla Knot Calidris canutus Lapwing Vanellus vanellus Leach's Petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca Little Auk Alle alle Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus Little Egret Egretta garzetta Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus Little Owl Athene noctua Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius Little Stint Calidris minuta Little Tern Sterna albifrons Long-eared Owl Asio otus Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis Long-tailed Skua Stercorarius longicaudus Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus Magpie Pica pica Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Mandarin Aix galericulata Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus Marsh Tit Poecile palustris Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta Merlin Falco columbarius Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Mute Swan Cygnus olor Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus Nuthatch Sitta europaea Osprey Pandion haliaetus Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus Pallas's Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos Peregrine Falco peregrinus Pheasant Phasianus colchicus Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus Pintail Anus acuta Pochard Aythya ferina Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus Ptarmigan Lagopus mutus Puffin Fratercula arctica Purple Heron Ardea purpurea Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima Quail Coturnix coturnix Raven Corvus corax Razorbill Alca torda Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus Red Kite Milvus milvus Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus Red-throated Diver Gavia stellatta Redshank Tringa totanus Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus Redwing Turdus iliacus Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus Ring-necked Parakeet Psittacula krameri Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula Robin Erithacus rubecula Rock Dove and Feral Pigeon Columba livia Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus Rook Corvus frugilegus Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis Ruff Philomachus pugnax Sabine's Gull Larus sabini Sand Martin Riparia riparia Sanderling Calidris alba Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis Scaup Aythya marila Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus Serin Serinus serinus Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis Shelduck Tadorna tadorna Shore Lark Eremophila alpestris Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus Shoveler Anas clypeata Skylark Alauda arvensis Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritus Smew Mergus albellus Snipe Gallinago gallinago Song Thrush Turdus Philomelos Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia Spotted Crake Porzana porzana Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus Starling Sturnus vulgaris Stock Dove Columba oenas Stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus Stonechat Saxicola torquata Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus Swallow Hirundo rustica Swift Apus apus Tawny Owl Strix aluco Teal Anas crecca Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis Tree Sparrow Passer montanus Treecreeper Certhia familiaris Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula Turnstone Arenaria interpres Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta Water Rail Rallus aquaticus Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus Whinchat Saxicola rubetra White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons White-tailed eagle Haliaeetus albicilla Whitethroat Sylvia communis Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus Wigeon Anas penelope Willow Tit Poecile montanus Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix Woodcock Scolopax rusticola Woodlark Lullula arborea Woodpigeon Columba palumbus Wren Troglodytes troglodytes Wryneck Jynx torquilla Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis