Exterminated from the UK in the 1800s by game-keepers and egg collectors, goshawks have been recolonising since the 1960s, through releases and escapes of falconry birds. Up to 430 pairs now breed here.
Goshawks continue to be shot and trapped on private land. In Britain, they are faring best in large forestry plantations. In Germany, they are rather common in central Berlin.
Goshawks (from the Old English for “goose-hawk”) are more likely to hunt hares, rabbits, squirrels, waterfowl, game-birds, corvids and pigeons, and will crash through vegetation in pursuit and even give chase on foot.
The scientific name, Accipiter gentilis, translates as gentle hawk. Among Mediaeval falconers, the goshawk was the raptor of choice of the nobility.
The flag of the Azores features a golden goshawk. Indeed the archipelago’s name may derive from the Portuguese for goshawk (açor). Early explorers must have been poor birders – it’s unlikely the species ever lived there.
Mistaken identity II
Photographic evidence suggests that most goshawks reported from residential gardens are in fact sparrowhawks. Though easily confused, goshawks are larger and sturdier, although not as big as buzzards.
Goshawk pairs copulate as many as 500-600 times per clutch, a number usually associated with promiscuous species, but genetic studies suggest a rather low rate of infidelity.