Most hawks soar and dive over open meadows, streams, tundra, estuaries or coastlines, but the Northern Goshawk is most likely seen within mature forests, hunting through the trees beneath the leafy canopy. Over hundreds of thousands of years, they have developed short, powerful wings and protective eye tufts which enable them to fly through the forest understory and canopy in pursuit of songbirds and squirrels. Their long, rudder-like tails give them an acrobatic ability to spin around trees and dive under shrubs and brush.
The Northern Goshawk is a fierce, determined predator. It has been observed chasing Snowshoe Rabbits for as long as 30 minutes before making a hit. In spite of its determination to survive, the Northern Goshawk is in serious decline with the clear-cutting of mature forests in western America. When the numbers of this top predator decline, other species in this same ecosystem will decline as well.
A Northern Goshawk pair builds and maintains between three and nine nests in their home range, but use and defend only one nest per year. Goshawk nests are especially important to sensitive or imperiled species such as Spotted Owls and Great Gray Owls. Their nests are also used by Cooper's Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Great Horned Owls, Short-eared Owls, squirrels, and many other species. When Goshawks are driven from a mature forest, their many nests collapse from lack of maintenance, and a precious wildlife habitat is lost. Tree farms, which in many cases replace clear-cut mature forests, do not support the diversity of bird and mammal life.
This Tiger with wings, the Northern Goshawk, is both a top level predator and an ecological engineer. As mature and old growth forests become rarer and rarer, so do Goshawks. The Northern Goshawk is extremely rare today in clear-cut forest ranges from California to Washington State and in the Sierra Madre.
I hope this article makes you aware of some of the wonderful wildlife that surrounds you and how so many factors work together to bring about the web of survival in our natural world.
artist this week is Mary Kay Feezer. Thank you Mary Kay for giving us
an up-close view of the beautiful Northern Goshawk. If you would like
to talk about birds call Marilyn Davis at 435 673-0996.