Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

Back to bird species list


Northern goshawks belong to a group of hawks called accipiters, with short, rounded wings and long tails. Adults are bluish-gray on the back, wings and tail, and pearly-gray on the under parts, with a white-tipped tail. Their dark gray cap is accented by a light gray stripe above the red eye. Immature goshawks are brown on the back, wings and tail, with buff-colored under parts streaked with brown. The eyes of the immature are yellow and it takes several years for them to change to the red of adults. The long tail is broadly banded with dark gray in adults and dark brown in juveniles.


Northern goshawks do not make long-distance migrations and can be found year-round throughout their range in Alaska.

Food Habits

Northern goshawks are carnivores primarily eating larger animals such as snowshoe hare, grouse, ptarmigan, ducks, and small animals such as squirrels, voles, shrews and some songbirds.

When a goshawk is feeding, it ingests the feathers or fur of the small animals. These, along with bones, are not digested but are compacted into pellets and regurgitated.

Life History

Nesting begins early to mid-April, often when there is still snow on the ground. They build a large stick nest, usually in a major crotch of birch or aspen trees. They often return to the same general area every year and will occasionally reuse an old nest. The area immediately surrounding the nest is vigorously defended against intruders. Females lay one to four eggs that hatch in late May or early June. Young goshawks grow quickly and fledge early to mid-July.

Population Status, Threats & Conservation

Northern goshawks are abundant in the state of Alaska, but not commonly seen because they spend the majority of their time in wooded habitat.  While it is illegal to kill raptors, the Northern goshawk may be kept in captivity by falconers, providing they have the required permit. They are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Animal Diversity Web
Alaska Department of Fish and Game