Northern Goshawks-problems and pitfalls

We are getting into that time of year where well-manned hawk watches begin to see the occasional Northern Goshawk. Here in Connecticut, they are a late migrant, generally occurring in late October into November – all reports are typically of juveniles and not adults (I’ve never seen an adult away from the breeding grounds in CT).

Our well-known, in-state watchpoints (Lighthouse Pt. and Quaker Ridge) are manned everyday, all day, at this time of year and there are few reports of Northern Goshawk. The math is simple. Goshawks are uncommon.

Goshawks are  big buteo-like birds, impressive to see both during the breeding season and on migration. They are also frequently misidentified. The time-honored identification pitfall being big Cooper’s Hawks –  it is these birds that you are likely to see  at Hawkwatches in September; in your backyard, attacking birds at your feeders; or just hanging out at Hammonasett in winter. Could you see a Northern Goshawk in September, in your backyard, or at Hammonasett in winter. Sure, it’s possible…but really, it’s just a big Cooper’s Hawk. CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE.

GosvsCoop

Juvenile Northern Goshawks (left) and Cooper’s Hawks (right) (Julian Hough). Large juvenile female COHA can be very similar to NOGO, but note the broader body, tail and wings of NOGO. Underpart markings are variable in both, but typically heavier, darker and more extensive in NOGO.

We’ve all made that mistake, been spooked initially by that huge female Coop’s, but when you finally see a Goshawk, it’s often a case of “You know it when you see it”.

 

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3 Responses to “Northern Goshawks-problems and pitfalls”

  1. Susanne Shrader Says:

    Julian, are facial markings more distinct in the juvenile goshawks?

    • julianhough Says:

      Suzanne..the most obvious difference from other accipiters is that NOGO have more prominent white superciliums (line above the eye). Some Cooper’s Hawks have obvious superciliums too, so it is best used in conjunction with other features rather than as a standalone point of difference.

  2. bill Says:

    and then there are the hybrids….lol. It’s a mine field.

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