Wild Profile: meet the goshawk

Updated: January 16, 2019

By Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock

Out for a winter hike in cottage country? Be on the lookout for northern goshawks. These raptors are secretive and stick to forest tracts, so you’ll rarely see them outside of the woods. You can recognize them by their red eyes and distinctive white “eyebrow” stripes.

Goshawks are symbols of strength and ferocity, and have been popular with falconers for 2,000 years. (Plus, strange trivia alert: Attila the Hun’s battle helmet had the symbol of a goshawk on it.) These hawks can take down prey twice their weight, and, thanks to their long, rudder-like tails, are extremely agile in the air. As long as they can find enough to eat—hares, grouse, and squirrels—the tough, medium-sized birds of prey stick around through the winter instead of migrating south.

Goshawks are mostly solitary until they breed late in the winter. Each pair mates multiple times per day. Sometimes it takes 500 sessions to produce one clutch of eggs! That’s a lot of hooking up for a bird. Or maybe for anyone.

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