Accipiter gentilis (Linnaeus, 1758) GI GOSHA 2670
Family: Accipitriformes > Accipitridae

Goshawk, Chris Knights

This large and powerful bird is easily overlooked, its presence most readily revealed during the early breeding season when individuals make display flights over their woodland territories.

The Goshawk was an extremely rare bird historically, and may even have been lost from our shores as a breeding species during the late 1800s. Increasing numbers of records from the 1960s have been linked to escaped or deliberately released captive birds, and it is from these beginnings that our current population originates.

Now a widespread bird across much of Wales and southern Scotland, other populations show a more discrete distribution, often centred on large expanses of forest or woodland – e.g. the New Forest, Thetford Forest. The species is the target of persecution, a factor that was implicated in its poor fortunes back in the 1800s.


Goshawk identification is often difficult. The following article may help when identifying Goshawk.

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Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Goshawk, provided by xeno-canto contributors.

Begging call


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Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.

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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



This species was driven to extinction by the late 19th century, with the decline attributed to deforestation and persecution (Hollom 1957). The subsequent population is believed to have arisen from birds which have been deliberately or accidentally released by falconers from the 1960s and 1970s onwards (Marquiss & Newton 1982) with the numbers and range initially increasing very slowly and the distribution remaining patchy (Balmer et al. 2013). Rare Breeding Birds Panel data indicate that the Goshawk population has increased strongly across the UK over recent decades,with a mean of 712 breeding pairs reported for the five-year period 2015–2019; estimates from county recorders suggest a populaton of around 1,200+ pairs (Eaton et al. 2021).


Goshawks are resident, leading to similar patterns of distribution and abundance between seasons. Outside Wales and the Borders, the distribution comprises a number of clusters of occupied 10-km squares. Many territories are associated with large state-owned forests.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


There have been significant range expansions in both seasons. Some may be due to better coverage and reporting, but there has undoubtedly been a concurrent population increase.

Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Goshawks are present year-round but recorded most often in late winter/early spring during spring aerial displays.

Weekly occurence of Goshawk from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Goshawk ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Goshawk, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Glas-sheabhag
Welsh: Gwalch Marth
Catalan: astor comú
Czech: jestráb lesní
Danish: Duehøg
Dutch: Havik
Estonian: kanakull
Finnish: kanahaukka
French: Autour des palombes
German: Habicht
Hungarian: héja
Icelandic: Gáshaukur
Irish: Spioróg Mhór
Italian: Astore
Latvian: vistu vanags
Lithuanian: paprastasis vištvanagis
Norwegian: Hønsehauk
Polish: jastrzab (zwyczajny)
Portuguese: açor
Slovak: jastrab velký
Slovenian: kragulj
Spanish: Azor común
Swedish: duvhök
Folkname: Pigeon Hawk


Interpretation and scientific publications about Goshawk from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

The UK population originates from birds deliberately or accidentally released by falconers during the 1960s and 1970s (Balmer et al. 2013). The localised pattern of such releases and high levels of illegal killing are believed to have influenced the patchy distribution of this species across the UK (Marquiss et al. 2003), as it is slow to disperse and colonise new breeding areas. Goshawks in the UK are often associated with large forests, often conifer plantations and this may influence their distribution in the UK, although some continental populations do breed in urban areas. Habitat quality and weather during the breeding season and in autumn were the most important drivers of population growth rate in a German population (Krüger & Lindström 2001); similar factors could be influencing the trend in the UK, but this should not be assumed as the range expansion of the UK population is ongoing and the relative importance of these factors and other factors may be different.

Links to more information from ConservationEvidence.com

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