Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis


Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 234,000-380,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International In prep.). Europe forms approximately 26% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of global population size is 900,000-1,460,000, although further validation of this estimate is needed. The population in Canada and the USA is estimated at 210,000 mature individuals (Partners in Flight 2020).  It is placed in the band 1,000,000-2,499,999 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Globally, the population trend is considered unknown. This species has had stable population trends over the last 40 years in North America (data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007). In Europe the population size is estimated to be decreasing by 59% in 24 years (three generations). Declines have been recorded recently in the east Netherlands (Rutz et al. 2006), locally in Germany (Gedeon et al. 2015), in Denmark (-8% per year from 2005-2014; Nyegaard et al. 2015), and in Finland (Valkama et al. 2011).

Distribution and population

Widely distributed across Europe and Northern Asia, including the British Isles, Scandinavia, north Russia and Siberia, south to the Mediterranean, the Caucasus, the Himalayas and Japan. Also widespread in North America, including western and central Alaska, Canada, the U.S. and south to Mexico. Resident throughout much of its range, but partially migratory in the northernmost populations of North America, Scandinavia and Russia (Squires et al. 2020).


Behaviour The species is mainly resident, but its northernmost populations in North America, Scandinavia and Russia migrate south between September and November, returning in March and April (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Snow and Perrins 1998). Soaring flight is used frequently (Snow and Perrins 1998). It is always seen singly or in pairs (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Habitat It inhabits mature woodland, particularly coniferous, but also deciduous or mixed, preferring areas near clearings and the forest edge (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Diet Small birds and mammals make up the vast majority of its diet, with grouse, pheasants and partridges being especially important in boreal zones (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Breeding site Nests are built on the forks or branches of large trees (del Hoyo et al. 1994), typically in areas with high (60-90%) canopy closure (Squires et al. 2020). Management information The species's optimal habitat appears to be areas of farmland interspersed with mature forest; afforestation has improved its status across parts of its range (del Hoyo et al. 1994).


Significant declines in Europe in the 19th-20th centuries are thought to have resulted from persecution and deforestation, with later declines in the 1950s-1960s a result of poisoning from pesticides and heavy metals. Studies on Northern Goshawk nestlings in Norway show that persistent organic pollutants are still present in plasma, preen oil and feathers, suggesting recent and continuous exposure (Briels et al. 2019). Persecution continues to be a threat, as is nest robbing for falconry (Orta and Marks 2014). It is also highly vulnerable to the impacts of potential wind farm developments (Strix 2012). Timber harvest is a primary threat to nesting populations, with nests and nest stands regularly destroyed or by logging operations, but the impact on breeding success is unknown (Squires et al. 2020, Byholm et al. 2020). Disturbance caused by logging activity near nests can also cause nest failure (Boal and Mannan 1994). In Alaska, U.S.A, clear-cut, even-aged, short-rotation forest management reduces habitat quality for the species, as does removal of old growth forest patches (Iverson et al. 1996). Increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires in western North America are causing a reduction in suitable roosting and foraging sites (Blakey et al. 2020). Declines in some European countries are associated with reduced food supply following intensification of farming and forestry and increased competition for nest sites from Eagle Owls Bubo bubo (Rutz et al. 2006).

Conservation actions

Conservation actions underway 
The species is listed on CITES Appendix II, CMS Appendix II, Raptors MoU Category 3, and Bern Convention Appendix II. Fourteen European countries currently have breeding population monitoring schemes in place for this species (representing 33% of the countries in its European breeding range) (Derlink et al. 2018).

Conservation actions proposed 
Further research is needed into habitat preferences, wintering biology, dispersal capabilities and the effect of changes in landscape pattern on foraging behaviour and population viability. Population trends are poorly understood as migration and roadside counts are limited due to low detection and irruptive movements (Squires et al. 2020). Other monitoring procedures need to be developed and implemented to determine population trends.


Text account compilers
Haskell, L.

Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N., Ashpole, J & Harding, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Accipiter gentilis. Downloaded from on 05/03/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 05/03/2024.