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American Goshawk - BirdForum Opus

Revision as of 18:09, 12 May 2024 by Njlarsen (talk | contribs) (→‎Subspecies)
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Subspecies A. a. atricapillus
Photo © by fuzzhead
Richland, WA, USA
Accipiter atricapillus


Average male 55 cm, female 61 cm, a large, powerful accipiter.

  • Upperside brownish grey to slate grey
  • Underside pale with fine grey barring
  • Vent and undertail coverts white; these can be flared up in flight, especially during breeding season
  • Tail broad; grey with thin darker barring
  • Head with black crown, black ear coverts, and white supercilium
  • Bill with yellow cere
  • Eye red (yellow in juvenile)
  • Legs and feet unfeathered, yellow

Immature: Generally, grey is replaced by brown, and underside is heavily streaked instead of barred. In flight: Notice a relatively large head protruding, while leading edge of wings is straight (not pressed forward). Wings are broad and long, tapering towards the end.

Similar species

Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper's Hawk have relatively longer tail, less broad wings, and lack the impression of a powerful chest. Especially Sharp-shin tends to press wings forward while flying. An adult Cooper would show orange on the chest and head, and an immature would be less strongly barred on the underside then a Goshawk.


Juvenile of subspecies A. a. atricapillus
Photo © by digishooter
Kern County, CA, USA, August 2011

In North America, breeds from Alaska east through Mackenzie and northern Quebec to Newfoundland, and south to northern and western Mexico, Great Lakes, and New England; also southward to northern Appalachians; generally does not breed in the central prairie states. Winter range mostly overlaps but some birds found further south.


Formerly considered the same species as Eurasian Goshawk under the name of Northern Goshawk.


Clements recognizes these subspecies[1]:

  • A. g. atricapillus: North America south to southwest US
  • A. g. laingi: South-western Canada (Haida Gwaii and Vancouver Island (British Columbia)) to Alaska, mainly on islands
  • A.g. apache: (Sierra Madre Occidental and northern end of Sierra Madre Oriental Mexico to South-eastern Arizona and South-western New Mexico USA


For breeding, usually found in a variety of forests or at least riparian areas, while hunting can also include more open areas.


Prey are identified both by watching from a perch and while flying, and prey are captured both on the ground and in flight. Prey includes from larger passerines to grouse and medium size mammals.


Ki-ki-ki or kakking series of calls are used in agression. The latter seems also to be used during pair formation, but then given as duets.


  1. Clements, J. F., P. C. Rasmussen, T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, A. Spencer, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2023. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2023. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F, D Donsker, and P Rasmussen (Eds). 2023. IOC World Bird List (v 13.2). Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.13.2. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
  3. Squires, J. R. and R. T. Reynolds (2023). American Goshawk (Accipiter atricapillus), version 1.1. In Birds of the World (N. D. Sly, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.norgos.01.1
  4. Sibley, DA. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0679451228
  5. Dunne, P., D. Sibley, C. Sutton. 1988. Hawks in Flight. Boston, USA: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-395-51022-8

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