Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Goshawk hysteria

There have been a few recent reports of Northern Goshawks in the Carolinas holding varying degrees of credibility and attracting appropriate skepticism. These posts made me aware of a bird I had considered so rare as to never even consider when identifying hawks in North Carolina.

After looking at several dozen google images identified (correctly or incorrectly) as "goshawks," I couldn't help but see a resemblance to a hawk I saw just last week in Durham.

It was a long, but very distant look and as much as I wanted to wait for the bird to fly, I was out collecting data in Duke's SWAMP and had to move onto the next site.

The detail captured in the photo isn't really any worse than the binocular views. No tail pattern was visible. The bird never turned, flew or vocalized. The slight fork in the tail struck me as odd; I had never noticed this in any hawk before.

The eyebrow, vertical brown streaking and size all seemed consistent with Red-shouldered Hawk, a common species in this area and the obvious choice. But is there any chance I overlooked an immature goshawk right in my hometown? Is there anything in this photo that rules out one species or the other?


  1. Buffy eyebrow is a little more prominent than I usually see but I don't think it's nearly the stark white on immature Goshawk. Everything here looks perfect for Cooper's Hawk though.

  2. I'd go with immature Cooper's Hawk.

  3. I have an immature Red-shouldered Hawk who sits on one of my garden fence posts every day. It even sits on my deck rail occasionally. It looks just like your bird.

    The forked tail could just be a missing feather or two due to molt.

  4. Accipiter features, small head, with buffy eye brow, long slender look, and white breast with fading streaking downward = Cooper's