Juvenile Northern Goshawk

This is probably more of a birder’s post than a photographer’s post. But dammit, I was excited to see this hawk!


northern-goshawk-9286b-ron-dudley1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 1250, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I photographed this juvenile Northern Goshawk five days ago in Utah’s Stansbury Mountains. It was on the far side of a large canyon and the bird was so far away it looked like a small white dot against the shaded canyon wall to the naked eye. If Mia hadn’t spotted it while I was driving I’d have never known it was there. The bird was in deep shade but with those light colors it stood out well so I fired off a few shots for ID purposes. Notice that beautiful long accipiter tail meant to provide maneuverability as it chases prey through thick forests.

The hawk was so far away that I’ve cropped this photo to only 15% of the original image (3 MP of the original 20 MP) in order to give us a closer look at the bird. Such a drastic crop of an image taken at ISO 1250 will obviously produce some noise and be lacking in detail but given the circumstances I was quite pleased with the performance of my gear.

This was only the second time I’ve photographed a Goshawk and the first time the images were so bloody awful I probably deleted them. They’re rare to start with and I don’t spend a lot of time in their preferred habitat so it’s truly a banner day when I see one.

Since I finally got an image of a Golden Eagle I like a lot I suspect the Goshawk may become my new nemesis species. And it will likely remain so until I get a photo of one much better than this but on this occasion I was happy to just see the bird. The photo is a bonus.



46 comments to Juvenile Northern Goshawk

  • Aimee Hemmelgarn

    Beautiful and pride in knowing who he is..what a handsome bird!!! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Jane Chesebrough

    I understand about accepting conditions in a photo just to record a “lifer” or some species that I don’t see so often. This a gorgeous bird.

  • Frank sheets

    There is a book by an English falconer (woman) who shares her experiences with a Gosh hawk. Something like “H = Hawk. She describes the unique behavior of this bird compared to other raptors. For those loving falconery and raptors this is a great read.

  • gillycat

    oh just wow. and wow again !

  • Patty Chadwick

    Just got back from my volunteering stint at out annual FrOGS (Friends Of the Great Swamp)show where I saw my falconer friend, Jim Eyring, with his birds. Very high (45-55mph) gusty winds made it impossible to fly them….but it was great to see them again, especially the gyr and the kestrel. He has a female Harris that looks so much like a small Golden eagle! She, untypically, does NOT like hunting with other birds but atypivpcally, attacks them. Most Harris hawks hunt together…a wonderful sight!!!

  • Patty Chadwick

    I saw a white speck on a cruise to Alaska (a very grand gift)but it turn out to be a mt. goat, or so I was told….who’d know…..

  • Diane Bricmont

    You held onto this beauty for 5 days??? No fair!!! Seriously, though, congratulations! Spectacular bird- what a rush!

    • Yup, I did, Diane. I was undecided whether to post it or not because the bird was so darned far away. See – I’ve often said I’m a bird photographer and not a birder! 🙂

  • Dick Harlow

    FYI – I was attacked by a Goshawk some years ago when I got too close to its nest. Probably the female, but I didn’t hang around long enough to see which sex went after me! At that time I was banding and didn’t attempt to band this nest. Great Horns are easier, they perch some distance and watch, especially when you have several humans helping.

    • Dick, I just watched a few videos of Goshawks repeatedly attacking folks who got too close to the nest. They were truly scared – one guy said he was shaking. An experience like that must really get your attention!

      • Dick Harlow

        Oh yes, for a second you feel like how prey must feel. The thing is I wasn’t scared, just didn’t wan’t to get raked by their talons. However, I’m a wouse when it comes to spiders! Why I live in the Northeast.

  • I saw a video a few years back of a bander or researcher (I think) in Europe climbing to a gos nest; he was completely outfitted with helmet, leather jacket, gloves, leather chaps – and the female came in screaming from behind and got him in his only unprotected area: his butt.

  • What a stunner. I knew you would find another Nemesis. And there will be another after the Goshawk. And another. Perpetual motion at play…

  • April Olson

    What a wonderful find! They are gorgeous birds, their intense red eyes make a striking and intense stare against the slate streak. The only Goshawk I was around was a retired falconers turned education bird. It is one of the few birds who’s mew I would not clean. It hated both me and my daughter (maybe it is because we are redheads) Every time I walked by the mew it would fly at me. I had great respect for that bird, but avoided it at all times.

    • April Olson

      I should have added for Elephants Child that this same Goshawk loved certain people and would give a mating display for them showing her lovely white britches.

    • Geez, April, I can’t imagine hating redheads! It sounds like that bird really had an attitude.

    • Laura Culley

      I’ve always maintained that you just gotta respect a red-eyed raptor! Steve Bodio wrote my best-ever phrase when he described the eyes of a red-eyed haggard goshawk–that her eyes “had hardened from ruby to garnet.” Just love that phrase and oh so true. They’re formidable and lethal when they’re hunting (and otherwise, too).

  • Dick Ashford

    Hi Ron,
    Exciting stuff! To me, goshawks epitomize wildness. A sighting really get one’s adrenaline flowing.

    During the 80’s and 90’s, I used to spend a good deal of time in Yosemite NP where, up in the high country, the park service closed a trail annually for several years running. Why? Because Northern Goshawks nested there and the birds did NOT tolerate intruders. They would count coup on unsuspecting hikers! In Discovering Sierra Birds, Ted Beedy and Stephen Granholm write “If approached too closely, these largest and most powerful of North American accipiters will defend their nesting territories like demons. They peer down at intruders with defiant red eyes and fly boldly at their targets with talons spread.” Yes they do…

    Thank you for the great image (as always), and I won’t need that second cup of coffee – I’m stoked!

    • Thanks for providing that info, Dick. I’ve read about their potential aggressiveness toward humans when their nests are approached but you’ve filled in some gaps.

      I loved your “counting coup” line – perfect!

  • Patty Chadwick

    Beautiful, ghostly image…like the setting of the gracefully curved light-colored branches,too…all set off by the dark foliage and towering rocks….at least you now know the bird is there! Interesting comment about the long, narrow tail helping it manuver through thick forests…still an amazing feat to me!!!

    • Thanks, Patty.

      You might find this from BNA Online interesting:

      “the Goshawk is a powerful hunter capable of killing a variety of prey, including tree squirrels, hares, grouse, corvids, woodpeckers and large passerines such as American Robins (Turdus migratorius). When breeding, the female generally defends the nest while the smaller male provisions the family with food. Foraging males rapidly traverse large home ranges when searching for prey. Goshawks are well adapted for hunting in forests but also hunt open habitats. They are short duration sit-and-wait predators, perching briefly while searching for prey before changing perches. Their short, powerful wings allow rapid acceleration and their long tails quick maneuverability in trees. As an aggressive North American hunting hawk, Goshawks eagerly crash through brush when capturing prey or readily strike intruders approaching their nests.”

  • Laura Culley

    This is also a splendid falconer’s shot, too! We LOVE goshawks, despite that they’re a tad psychotic. Not saying that’s a BAD thing because that indicates the reality of their habitat and their lives with sight moving immediately to action with no time for it to linger in thought. They just GO…NOW! Goshawks hang out in foresty habitats, which is why you don’t see them frequently–you can’t see the goshawk for the trees 🙂 Intermittent psychotic episodes and the occasional mandatory bloodletting aside (that goes along with earring opportunities in new and exciting places–LOL), goshawks are spectacularly beautiful and amazing hunters with explosive 0-to-60 speed and incredible maneuverability and agility. I truly appreciate who they are, despite that my brain doesn’t work like that!
    Thank you so much!

  • Susan Stone

    Even with such a huge crop the image looks sharp to me. To be able to do that at such a distance is amazing and wonderful. I’d love to see a Goshawk, but I’m pretty sure it won’t happen, so I’ll be happy with whatever images you manage to get.

  • Marina

    I too know your excitement !! I saw one while camping on grand mesa this fall. My first ever. I couldn’t hold camera still cause my hands were trembling. Your picture looks like an exact replica of mine( yours is sharper) it’s on side of mountain high up in pines in some dead branches. Bird was 1000 feet away. So white soeck in a bunch of trees . my picture is not great but soooooo exciting….

  • Ed

    Super! A very nice find Ron. I know in some places the Northern Goshawk is rapidly becoming an endangered species :-(.

  • Frank sheets

    Great find Ron. I don’t think I have ever seen one. Good luck with the quest.

  • Chris (Yar33)

    Beautiful bird and shot! Darn good depth of field at that distance. And that eye – nice! It looks like he/she is grasping that branch with only one talon.

    • Yes, I think the hawk has one foot tucked up and it appears that only one talon is wrapped around the branch – it was quite relaxed. Thank you, Chris.

  • Dick Harlow

    OF COURSE!! your excited! I can vividly remember my first Goshawk even though I had to duck under a tree.
    Beautiful image and he/she seems so comfortable! Well done!

  • Judy Gusick

    Beautiful! 🙂 Your gear (and you) certainly did get the job done in this case! 🙂 A worthy challenge tho the Golden Eagle will always be one too, I’m sure. 🙂

    • Yup, I’ll continue to work on my Golden Eagle shots, Judy – that’s a given. But boy would it ever make my day (week, month, year…) to get a spectacular, up close flight shot of a Goshawk!