Northern Goshawk
(Accipiter gentilis)


Picture of bird
© Dick Cannings
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Northern Goshawk is a diurnal raptor breeding in forested areas throughout Canada south of the treeline. Results from the Breeding Bird Survey and the Christmas Bird Count, considered together, suggest little overall change in the Canadian population relative to about 1970. The overall reliability of this assessment is considered to be medium because of incomplete coverage of the species' range. The subspecies Accipiter gentilis laingi, largely confined to Haida Gwaii and Vancouver Island, is listed as Threatened in Canada because of its small population and reliance on large tracts of older forest (COSEWIC 2013a). The latest population estimate for A. g. laingi is about 1000 mature individuals (about half the global population); this population is thought to be declining (COSEWIC 2013a). The more common and widespread subspecies A. g. atricapillus was assessed as Not at Risk in 1995 (COSEWIC 2013a). This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Not at Risk1995Northern Goshawk atricapillus subspecies
COSEWIC (Canada)Threatened2013Northern Goshawk laingi subspecies
SARA (Canada)Threatened2003Northern Goshawk laingi subspecies
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Apparently secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLittle ChangeMediumBelow Acceptable Level
Northern Goshawk laingi subspeciesModerate DecreaseMediumBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada50,000 - 500,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence


Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between mid-March and late April and ends between late July and early August, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

The breeding populations and breeding success of Northern Goshawks across most of Canada are both linked to the 10-year population cycle in snowshoe hares. The hares, along with other species strongly affected by the hare cycle such as grouse and squirrels, are the primary prey of goshawks across the boreal forests of North America (Doyle and Smith 1994). Northern Goshawk breeding populations can be negatively affected by logging, especially harvest techniques that create large openings and fragmented forest (Squires and Reynolds 1997). The Haida Gwaii population (Accipiter gentilis laingi) has faced ongoing habitat loss along with prey declines due to over-browsing by an introduced deer population (Parks Canada Agency 2017). For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view available recovery documents, see the SARA Registry.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Atlantic Northern ForestsAtlantic Northern Forests, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NB -- Conservation & Stewardship
Boreal Hardwood TransitionBoreal Hardwood Transition, sub-region and priority type: Ontario and Manitoba -- Conservation
Boreal Softwood ShieldBoreal Softwood Shield, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation
Boreal Taiga PlainsBoreal Taiga Plains, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Stewardship
Great BasinGreat Basin, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation
Northern Pacific RainforestNorthern Pacific Rainforest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other
Northern RockiesNorthern Rockies, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation & Stewardship
Northwestern Interior ForestNorthwestern Interior Forest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Stewardship