Like other raptors, the goshawk is distinguished by its sharp, curved bill and powerful talons, both of which are used to grasp and rip prey animals. The bird’s coloring is generally a dark gray or blue-gray back with a lighter belly. Dark plumage on the head is reminiscent of a skullcap with a white eyebrow and a dark eye-band. The tail is long and the wings are broad and rounded at the tips.
The Northern Goshawk is classified as an accipiter, a bird of prey adapted to flying quickly and maneuvering easily through heavily wooded environments. Other North American accipiters include sparrowhawks. Its physical ability to easily navigate forested areas means it can effectively overtake and attack agile prey such as squirrels, rabbits and hares. A typical hunting style would entail the goshawk perching in a tall tree and then making a high-velocity dive when prey is spotted. Its tenaciousness may lead the bird to deliberately smash through forest vegetation or pursue a single individual prey animal for as long as sixty minutes before abandoning the hunt.
The goshawk’s fearless nature also extends to its parenting. Nests are built among high branches and constructed of bark and fresh greenery arranged in a bowl shape. The female will typically produce a clutch of one to five eggs. Both parents will ferociously defend the nest, even to the point of attacking human interlopers.
The Northern Goshawk is found in mature forests of all kinds. In Oregon, they are most commonly located in the valleys east of the Coast Mountain Range and in the Cascade, Blue and Klamath Mountain areas. It is rare in coastal areas.