About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Is the Northern Goshawk Rare in Michigan?

Hello Sarah, I had a weird bird in my yard too. It was bigger than a Cooper’s Hawk and had a flat head. I’ve never seen it before and I pulled out my Birds of Michigan field guide. I think it’s a Northern Goshawk. It’s a large, dark hawk with a black hat or crown of feathers. The belly is light gray and the back is dark gray. I think what convinced me was the white eyebrow. I haven’t seen it again. Did I see a rare bird? ~Bath, MI

Northern Goshawk ad M2Image via Wikipedia
The Northern Goshawks utilize a wide range of forested habitats ranging from boreal forests to northern hardwoods and occasionally pine plantations of the northern hemisphere. They can winter in mid-Michigan and the most common time to see this secretive forest bird is at the end of February to the fourth week of March as the hawks migrate to their nesting grounds.

The name "goshawk" comes from the Old English words gos, meaning goose, and hafoc meaning hawk. But even though it's the largest North American Accipiter, their most common prey are small mammals and birds found in forest habitats and not geese.

However, Goshawks have been prized for many centuries as a falconry bird for their speedy pursuits of prey and fearless demeanor. And records of traditional Japanese falconry, describes how the hawks were used regularly to hunt goose and crane species.

The United States Forest Service (US Dept of Agriculture) has listed the goshawk as a "sensitive species", primarily on the basis of historic and ongoing nesting habitat loss, specifically the loss of old-growth and mature forest stands throughout the goshawk's known range.

I've never seen a goshawk. In recent years, several states such as Michigan, Washington and Idaho have listed the birds as a "Species of Concern" and have increased conservation efforts focused on these birds. I think it is rare to see a goshawk in the suburbs of mid-Michigan. Thank you for letting us know about your sighting.

Further Information:
1) University of Michigan Museum of Zoology- Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Northern Goshawk
3) Wikipedia- Northern Goshawk
Enhanced by Zemanta