A large hawk, almost reaching buzzard size. When seen close to it has a fierce expression with bright red eyes and a distinctive white eyebrow. Its broad wings enable it to hunt at high speed, weaving in and out of trees, and its long legs and talons can catch its prey in flight. The female is substantially larger than the male. In late winter and spring it has a ‘sky-dance’ display. Goshawks are still persecuted and their nests are frequently robbed.
Goshawks are seen less often than might be expected for such a large raptor, but the New Fancy viewpoint in the Forest of Dean has become one of the prime sites in Britain for watching their spring display flights. Goshawks had ceased to breed in Britain by the mid-nineteenth century. The first definite modern Gloucestershire breeding record did not come until 1980 when a pair from Gwent arrived and nested in the county. Locations were kept a secret, and as a result the Goshawk spread rapidly. The present population is considered to consist entirely of lost or escaped captive birds and their descendants. By 1984 there were five known pairs in the county. This increased to 21 by 1995, and in the Dean and Wye Valley in 2011, there were 62 known nesting sites, most likely saturation point for the forest. Ten clutches of eggs are known to have been stolen between 1990 and 1994, but the main threat to breeding is disturbance from forestry operation, though the Forestry Commission do take measures to minimise this. The greatest overall threat to Goshawks is probably the illegal killing of juveniles in the autumn, when they’re attracted to Pheasants kept in pens prior to release for shooting. Breeding outside the Dean and Wye Valley was first confirmed in 2007.
Size, habitat and diet
Weight: M: 850g F: 1.5kg
World distribution: Europe, most of Asia, North America
Habitat: Forest and open wood
Diet: Birds and mammals (up to size of hare, 6kg), attacks from cover, pursues for short distances.
Slow motion squirrel hunt (Smithsonian Channel)
Goshawk hunts in slow motion (Earth Unplugged)