Birds – The Goshawks

(Astur) are very numerous in species, no less than sixty-three having been described, from practically the entire world, North America laying claim to three forms, the best known being the American Goshawk (A. Atricapillus), which ranges over the northern and eastern portions of the continent and comes south in winter to the Middle States and the southern Rocky Mountain region. The male is about twenty-two and the female about twenty-four inches in length, in adult plumage being clear bluish gray or plumbeous, with blackish shaft-streaks above, the top of the head black with a white line over and behind the eye, and white below, the breast, belly, sides, and flanks being marked with irregular, wavy bars of slate-grayish, while the tail is crossed by about four dusky bands; the young are dusky grayish brown above,the feathers margined with buff, and whitish or pale buff streaked or spotted with blackish below. Trim, alert, and vigorous, the Goshawk is “the boldest and by far the most destructive of the North American Raptores, infinitely more injurious to our game birds, and the poultry yard as well, than any other species. Notwithstanding its comparatively short wings, its flight is powerful and swift; it is strong and active in body, shy and keen-sighted, savage and bloodthirsty in disposition, a veritable terror to all smaller birds, and more than a match for others considerably larger than itself. It loves to destroy life for the sake of killing.” BENDIRE. Fortunately it breeds mainly to the north, coming south only in winter, else it would be a terrible scourge to the poultry raiser. In the Yukon River region it feeds principally on Ptarmigan,lemmings, and Arctic hares, and in Maine, Mr. Manly Hardy reports having seen one destroy five Ruffed Grouse in a morning, “tearing them to pieces and leaving them.” The Goshawk nests in trees, constructing a bulky Crow-like nest, usually well up from the ground and in the thickest part of the forest; the eggs, which are bluish white and unspotted, number from two to five. The Western Goshawk (A. a. striatulus) occurs in western North America, from Sitka, Alaska, south to California and east to Idaho; it is dark plumbeous inclining to sooty blackish above and more heavily barred below. The only other North American species is the Mexican Goshawk (A. plagiata), which ranges over middle America to the southern border of the United States. It is smaller than the American species, being only about seventeen inches long, and is slaty gray above, and barred slaty gray and white below.