African Goshawk

Accipiter tachiro
Population status:
Least Concern
Body length:
35–40 cm (13.7-15.7 in)
Wingspan:
70 cm (27.5 in)
Weight:
230–510 g (8-18 oz)
African Goshawk

Munir Virani

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Did You Know?

  • The African Goshawk is considered to be one of the most numerous and widespread of the Accipiter species across its range
  • Researchers have observed that male African Goshawks probably hunt smaller bird species than the females do.
  • Though siblicide - when one nestling kills another - is common in some raptor species, it has only been documented once in African Goshawks. 

Other Hawks

How The Peregrine Fund is Helping

Though The Peregrine Fund doesn't work directly with African Goshawk, in Kenya, our scientists are working hard to learn about and protect all raptors and their habitats. Through environmental education efforts, we are also working to put a stop to the common practice of poisoning carcasses to kill large predators, which also kills a host of wildlife including vultures, eagles, and other scavenging birds. These efforts will certainly benefit all raptors of the region, including the African Goshawk. 

Meanwhile, our efforts in scientific research, habitat conservation, education, and community development help conserve birds of prey around the world. We also supply literature to researchers from our avian research library, which helps scientists around the world gather and share important information on raptor conservation. We also run the Global Raptor Impact Network which gives raptor researchers tools to more efficiently conduct their own studies while contributing to a global program. GRIN also provides citizen scientists a way to participate in raptor science and conservation.

Where They Live

The African Goshawk is found in over 15 different countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Angola, Botswana, Burundi,  The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The African Goshawk is considered a forest hawk, as it can be seen soaring, perching, and hunting in dense forests and woodlands. Like other African Accipiter species, it has also begun to utilize exotic tree plantations. 

What They Do

The Africa Goshawk, like so many birds of prey, is a very beautiful bird. It has a gray head and rump. Its off-white belly is marked with fine, rust-colored horizontal bars. While the males and females look quite similar to each other, there is one very clear difference in plumage between the sexes. The male has white spots on the surface of the tail, which the female lacks.

Like most birds of prey, female African Goshawks are larger than the males. 

African Goshawks are territorial birds, this mean they remain in one area year-round and will defend this area against any perceived predators, competitors, or other intruders. This bird is also quite vocal, and is more often seen than heard. 

Why They Need our Help

The African Goshawk has a very wide range and is common throughout. It is categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. This means that scientists aren't worried about the future of this beautiful raptor. However, loss of forest habitat might have an impact on this species' population in the long term. 

What They Eat

Like most other birds of prey, the African Goshawk uses its strong feet and sharp talons to catch its prey. And this spectacular raptor isn't a picky eater. It will take any prey that it can catch, though it mostly catches crabs and insects. But squirrels and other rodents, bats, a wide variety of birds, snakes, lizards, chameleons, and frogs are all on this bird's menu.

When this raptor is on the hunt, it will find a concealed perch on which to sit and observe. Once it spots something tasty to eat, it will make a mad dash from its perch to pursue its prey.  

Nests, Eggs, and Young

African Goshawks are monogamous. This means that the male and female will stay together all their lives. At the start of the breeding season, the pair will work together to gather small sticks and twigs, which they use to construct a well-hidden nest tucked into foliage or epiphytes. The pair will line the nest with a thick layer of soft leaves and lichens. 

By the time the nest is built it can measure between 40–70 cm in diameter, be 8–30 cm deep, and have walls that are 20–45 cm thick! Though these goshawks sometimes repair and re-use their old nests, they usually build a new nest every year, sometimes very close to their old one. 

When the nest is ready, it will be time for the female to lay between 1-3 eggs which researchers have described as being bluish or greenish. After they are laid, they will need to be incubated for about one month. This is when the pair divides their duties. The female takes on the majority of incubation duties, while the male works hard to capture enough food for himself and the female. 

Even after the nestlings hatch, the female will do all the work of brooding and feeding them, and will sleep in or very near the nest to keep them safe. But these young birds will grow very quickly. After just 35 days after hatching, the nestlings will be ready to fly from the nest. However, they will stay with their parents for the following two or three months before they are able to hunt and survive on their own. 

African Goshawk and the World Center for Birds of Prey

The World Center for Birds of Prey offers fun ways to learn about birds of prey. Interactive activities, tours, interesting videos and a children's room with activities from coloring sheets to quizzes to costumes are all available for our guests. We also have knowledgeable, on-site staff to answer any questions you may have. Though we don't have any goshawks on our Avian Ambassador team, the Northern Goshawk can be found in Idaho year-round. They nest in large trees within the Sawtooth National Forest located only a few hours away from The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey.

References:

BirdLife International. 2016. Accipiter tachiroThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22727697A95230244. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22727697A95230244.en. Downloaded on 25 August 2021.

Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: African Goshawk Accipiter tachiro. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 23 Aug. 2021

Johnson, C. (2007). Siblicide in post fledgling African Goshawks. Honeyguide 53(1–2):34.

Kirwan, G. M., A. C. Kemp, J. S. Marks, and P. F. D. Boesman (2020). African Goshawk (Accipiter tachiro), version 1.1. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.afrgos1.01.1