|Conservation status||Expanding range and possibly increasing in northeast during recent decades. Populations in southwestern mountains may be threatened or endangered by loss of habitat.|
|Family||Hawks and Eagles|
|Habitat||Coniferous and mixed forests. Generally restricted to wooded areas, but may be in relatively open woods or along edges. Often more common as a breeding bird in mixed woods than in pure stands of coniferous trees. During winter incursions to the south, may be found in any forest type.|
Hunts by perching quietly at mid-levels in trees, watching for prey, often moving from one perch to another. When prey is spotted, hawk attacks with a short flight, putting on a great burst of speed and often plunging through tangled branches and thickets in pursuit of quarry. Sometimes searches for prey by flying low through woods.
2-4, rarely 5. Bluish white, fading to white. Incubation is mostly by female, 32-38 days; male brings food to her. Young: Female remains with young most of time at first; male brings food, and female feeds it to young. Adults (especially female) very bold in defense of nest, diving at intruders, including humans, and sometimes drawing blood. Age of young at first flight about 5-6 weeks.
Female remains with young most of time at first; male brings food, and female feeds it to young. Adults (especially female) very bold in defense of nest, diving at intruders, including humans, and sometimes drawing blood. Age of young at first flight about 5-6 weeks.
Mostly birds and small mammals. Feeds on many medium-sized birds, such as grouse and crows; also many squirrels, rabbits, snowshoe hares. Also eats some small birds, small rodents, snakes, insects.
May mate for life. In display over nesting territory, adult glides and circles, often with fluffy white feathers under tail spread out to sides; also may do a series of shallow dives and upward flights. Male provides most or all food for female, beginning before eggs are laid. Nest site is in tree, often in deciduous tree in mixed forest, at a major crotch in the trunk. Height varies, commonly 25-50' above ground, sometimes 15-75' up. Nest (built mostly by female) is platform of sticks, lined with finer material, including green foliage. Nest may be reused, with more material added each year, becoming quite large.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Some may remain through winter in north woods, others (especially young birds) move south. Sometimes big invasions move south of breeding range, possibly when prey is scarce in north. Migrates relatively late in fall, early in spring.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsLoud kak-kak-kak-kak-kak when disturbed.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Northern Goshawk
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Northern Goshawk
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.