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Recently at a bird gathering in a family member’s backyard in Bismarck, an interesting raptor had shown itself, attempting to grab a bird near feeder for dinner. That interesting find was a northern goshawk. The find may be dull to others, but for me, it’s rather intriguing, and I don’t know a whole lot about the species, so I thought I’d do a bit of research and share with others.

The northern goshawk was lucky enough to grab a Eurasian collared dove for dinner. It liked its perch on top of the deck post and on top of the backyard shed. The goshawk was seen a couple times darting after more collared doves near a lilac bush, but the doves escaped by getting into the thicker branches. When the goshawk would come into the backyard, the birds at feeders would disperse and leave quickly — only to return a few moments later.

The northern goshawk populates North America and Eurasia. It is found year-round throughout most of Canada, the Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes region and east, within the United States, and in the western regions of Mexico. In North Dakota, it is considered a non-breeder.

The northern goshawk is an accipiter, a type of hawk with short, broad wings and a long rudder-like tail that gives it a superb aerial agility. They flash through forests chasing birds and mammals for prey, pounding silently or crashing feet-first through brush to grab dinner in their talons.

These hawks are mostly gray with a bold white “eyebrow” stripes over their orange- to red-colored eyes.

"All About Birds 2017" has some interesting facts about the species:

• The name goshawk comes from the Old English word for “goose hawk,” a reference to the habit of its preying. Falconers have trained goshawks for more than 2,000 years and were once called “cook’s hawk” for their success at snaring meat for the dinner pot.

• Like all accipiters, northern goshawk females are 25 percent heavier than males. The size difference allows the pair to feed on a wide range of prey size. When nesting, the larger female incubates the eggs while the male gathers food. 

• The northern goshawk pairs build and maintain as many as eight alternate nests within their nesting area. Even though they have nesting options, they tend to use the same nest year after year or may switch to a different nest if the brood fails. Goshawk pairs may add fresh conifer needles to the nest during breeding. The aromatic chemicals in the needles may act as a natural insecticide and fungicide. 

• The hawk is well known for its defense near a nest site. It commonly attacks people and animals that approach too closely.

• The oldest known northern goshawk was at least 17 years, 7 months old, when it was found in Michigan in 2013. The bird had been banded in the same state in 1995.

• Attila the Hun wore an image of a northern goshawk on his helmet.

With this fierce and stealthy hawk in the forests around, keep an eye out. You may just get lucky enough to spot one darting through the trees searching for dinner.

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