Bird Database

American Goshawk

(Accipiter atricapillus)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance




Habitat loss and fragmentation, Human disturbance, Disease

Conservation Actions

Protect large unfragmented forest blocks

American Goshawk

(Accipiter atricapillus)

The goshawk is the least common of North America’s three accipiters, or “bird hawks.” In contrast to their smaller relatives the Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned, goshawks also take a significant number of mammals as prey, primarily squirrels and rabbits, and will capture birds as large as grouse. Cycles in prey populations, particularly Snowshoe Hare and Ruffed Grouse, may result in fluctuating goshawk numbers, making it hard to determine population size and trends.

That said, it appears goshawks were more widespread in New Hampshire during the 1980s, when the Breeding Bird Atlas documented breeding throughout the southeastern portion of the state. They are quite rare south of the Lakes Region today but appear common in the west and north. Loss of large intact forest blocks is likely a factor in some of these local declines. To our south, goshawks have all but disappeared from historic habitat in the central Appalachians from West Virginia to Pennsylvania, and there is increasing concern about their status in this region. Habitat loss is certainly still an issue, but more recently there has been speculation on the role of West Nile Virus on populations of both goshawk and grouse in this region.

Goshawks are famously agressive near their nests and are known to defend their territories against other raptors as well as goshawks. People approaching a nest will first hear the birds’ high-pitched “ki ki ki ki ki ki,” and if the intruder is not dissuaded the next defense could well be a physical attack. It’s not uncommon for goshawks to fearlessly dive bomb humans, which they will even strike hard enough to draw blood.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

American Goshawk
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count