The goshawk is the most studied member of the hawk family. This is one of the most formidable celestial predators that are capable of hunting prey several times their own size. The goshawk was first described and classified in the middle of the 18th century, but people from ancient times knew this bird and tamed it for hawk hunting.
Origin of the species and description
The species of goshawks is objectively considered one of the most ancient on the planet. These birds existed in ancient times. Often, hawks were even considered messengers of the gods, and in ancient Egypt there was a god with the head of this bird. The Slavs also revered the hawk and placed the image of the bird on shields and coats of arms. The domestication and hunting of hawks goes back over two thousand years.
The goshawk is one of the largest raptors. The size of the male hawk ranges from 50 to 55 centimeters, weight reaches 1.2 kilograms. The females are much larger. The size of an adult individual can reach 70 centimeters, and a weight of 2 kilograms. The wingspan of a hawk is in the range of 1.2-1.5 meters.
An interesting fact: Due to the huge wingspan, the hawk can easily glide in ascending air currents and look out for suitable prey for tens of minutes , keeping in flight effortlessly.
The winged predator is strongly built, has a small oblong head and a short but agile neck. One of the specific features of the hawk is the presence of “feather pants”, which are not found in small breeds of birds of prey. The bird is covered with dense gray plumage and only the lower feathers have a light or white tint, making the bird elegant and well-remembered.
Interesting fact: The shade of hawk feathers depends on its territorial location. Birds living in the northern regions have denser and lighter plumage, while the hawks of the Caucasus Mountains, on the contrary, have dark plumage.
Appearance and features
As mentioned above, the appearance of the goshawk seriously depends on the territory in which the bird lives.
Let’s list the main bird species and indicate their characteristic features:
- European goshawk. This representative of the species is the largest of all goshawks. Moreover, a piquant feature of the species is that females are larger than males by about one and a half times. The European hawk lives almost throughout Eurasia, North America and Morocco. Moreover, the appearance of a bird in Morocco is due to the fact that several dozen individuals were released intentionally in order to regulate the number of over-bred pigeons;
- African goshawk. It has a more modest size than the European hawk. The body length of an adult does not exceed 40 centimeters, and the weight does not exceed 500 grams. The bird has a bluish tint of feathers on the back and wings, and gray plumage on the chest;
- The African hawk is distinguished by very strong paws with powerful and tenacious claws, which allows it to catch even the smallest game. The bird lives throughout the African continent, with the exception of the southern and arid regions;
- small hawk. As the name implies, this is a medium-sized bird of prey. Its length is about 35 centimeters, and its weight is about 300 grams. Despite its far from outstanding size, the bird is a very active predator and is able to catch game twice its own weight. In its color, the little hawk does not differ from the European goshawk. The winged predator mainly lives in the northern and western regions of Africa;
- light hawk. A rather rare bird, which got its name because of the extremely unusual light color. In terms of size and habits, it is an almost complete copy of its European counterpart. In total, there are only about 100 individuals of the white goshawk in the world and they are all found in Australia;
- red hawk. A very unusual representative of the hawk family. It is similar in size to a bird that breeds in Europe, but differs in red (or red) plumage. This bird is a real thunderstorm for parrots, which make up the bulk of its diet.
The family of goshawks is quite numerous, but all birds have similar habits, differing from each other only in size and appearance.
Where does the goshawk live?
The natural habitat for the bird is large tracts of forest, forest-steppe and forest-tundra (when it comes to the northern regions of Russia). Even living in Australia and Africa, these birds settle on the border of the savannah or bush, preferring to stay close to large trees.
In the Russian Federation, hawks live almost throughout the country, from the Caucasus Mountains to Kamchatka and Sakhalin.
An interesting fact: a separate group of hawks nests in the Caucasus Mountains. In terms of size and lifestyle, they do not differ from European individuals, but unlike them, they nest not on large trees, but in rocks. This is very rare, as they are the only hawks in the world that build nests on bare rocks.
In addition, birds live in Asia, China and Mexico. The number of individuals in these countries is small, but the state authorities are taking significant measures to protect their population. In recent years, due to the reduction of the natural habitat, birds are forced to settle in the immediate vicinity of human dwellings, and in some cases directly in cities.
An example is the families of goshawks that settled in park areas inside the city. And in 2014, a pair of raptors built their nest on top of a New York skyscraper.
Now you know where the goshawk lives. Let’s find out what it eats.
What does the goshawk eat?
A hawk is a bird of prey and it feeds exclusively on animal food. Young birds can catch large insects, frogs and rodents, but by the period of puberty, goshawks turn to catching other birds.
The majority of the hawk’s diet consists of:
Hawks at the peak of their physical form easily hunt ducks, geese, capercaillie and black grouse. It often happens that a feathered predator copes with prey that is equal to its weight and even larger.
A short tail and powerful wings help the hawk to actively maneuver and quickly change direction of flight. If necessary, the bird hunts even between trees, catching up with hares and other small mammals. When a hawk is hungry, he will not miss the opportunity to catch a large lizard or a snake basking on stones.
Interesting fact: A goshawk trained as a bird of prey is able to attack even moose or deer. Of course, the bird cannot cope with such a large prey, but it “slows down” the animal and allows a flock of dogs to attack the prey.
Hunters try not to hunt in places where the goshawk lives. This is due to the fact that the feathered predator scares away or destroys other birds in a diameter of several kilometers. Such a hunt will not bring results and will not bring pleasure.
Character and lifestyle features
Practically all species of goshawks lead a sedentary lifestyle, and if force majeure does not occur, predators live all their lives in one territory. The only exceptions are birds living in the north of the United States of America near the Rocky Mountains. In winter, there is practically no prey in these parts, and winged predators are forced to migrate south.
The goshawk is a very fast and agile bird. It is diurnal, preferring to hunt in the early morning or afternoon before the sun reaches its zenith. The bird spends the night in the nest, as its eyes are not adapted for night hunting.
The hawk is strongly attached to its territory, they try not to fly out of it and spend their whole lives in the same nest. These birds are monogamous. They create a stable couple and remain faithful to each other all their lives.
As a rule, the hunting territories of a pair of hawks overlap, but do not coincide with each other. Birds are very jealous of their lands and drive out (or kill) other raptors that fly here.
Interesting fact: Although female hawks are larger than males, their territory is 2-3 times smaller . It is the males that are considered the main earners in the family, and therefore their hunting grounds are larger.
In their natural habitat, hawks build nests in the forest thicket, on the tops of the tallest trees, at a height up to 20 meters.
Social structure and reproduction
The male begins courting the female from late April to early June. Almost immediately after the courtship period, the couple begins to build a nest, and both the male and the female participate in this process.
Nest building begins a couple of months before the egg is laid and lasts about two weeks. During this time, the birds equip a large nest (about a meter in diameter). For construction, dry branches, tree bark, needles and tree shoots are used.
Usually, in the nest of a goshawk there are 2-3 eggs. They almost do not differ in size from chicken, but have a bluish tint and are rough to the touch. Hatching of eggs lasts 30-35 days and the female sits on the eggs. At this time, the male hunts and supplies his girlfriend with prey.
After the males are born, the female stays with them in the nest for a whole month. Throughout this period, the male hunts with redoubled energy and supplies the female and all the chicks with food.
A month later, the young are on the wing, but the parents still feed them, teaching them how to hunt. Only three months after leaving the nest, the chicks become completely independent and leave their parents. Sexual maturity of birds occurs in a year.
In natural conditions, the goshawk lives about 14-15 years, but in the conditions of reserves with good nutrition and timely treatment, birds can live up to 30 years.
Natural enemies of the goshawk
By By and large, the goshawk does not have many natural enemies, as this bird is at the top of the food chain of winged predators. She herself is a natural enemy for many birds and small forest game.
However, foxes can provide the greatest danger to young animals. These are one of the smartest forest predators that are able to watch for prey for hours, and if a young bird gapes, then the fox is quite capable of attacking a hawk.
At night, owls and eagle owls can threaten hawks. Goshawks do not see well in the dark, which is what owls use, which are ideal nocturnal predators. They may well attack chicks at night without fear of retaliation from adult hawks.
Other birds of prey, whose size exceeds the size of a hawk, can also pose a quite tangible threat. For example, in the United States, hawks and eagles live next door, and eagles, as larger birds, dominate hawks and do not disdain to hunt them.
In addition, if game is not enough, hawks can engage in cannibalism and eat smaller and weaker relatives or their broods. However, the greatest threat to goshawks comes from humans who hunt birds for their beautiful feathers or to make beautiful and showy effigies.
Species population and status
Unfortunately, the goshawk population is steadily declining. And if at the beginning of the century there were about 400 thousand birds, now there are no more than 200 thousand of them. This happened due to the fact that after the Second World War, there was an explosive growth in poultry farming and for a long time it was believed that the hawk was a threat to chickens, geese and ducks.
In a few years, a huge number of birds were destroyed, which led to a geometric increase in the number of sparrows, which in turn caused enormous damage to agriculture. The ecological balance was disturbed and has not been restored so far. It is enough to recall the famous “hunting for sparrows” in China to understand how great the scale of the disaster was.
Currently, the population of goshawks is distributed as follows:
- USA – 30 thousand individuals;
- Africa – 20 thousand individuals;
- Asian countries – 35 thousand individuals;
- Russia – 25 thousand individuals;
- Europe – about 4 thousand birds.
Naturally, all calculations are approximate, and many scientists — ornithologists fear that in reality there are even fewer birds. It is believed that no more than 4-5 pairs of hawks can live on 100 thousand square meters. The decrease in the territory of relict forests leads to the fact that the number of hawks is decreasing and there are no prerequisites for improving the situation yet.
The sparrowhawk is a beautiful bird of prey, which is the winged orderly of the forest. These birds help maintain the natural balance of nature and are not capable of causing noticeable harm to large poultry farms. In many countries of the world, hawks are protected by the state, and hunting for them is under the strictest ban.