Plants and Animals

Accipiter atricapillus Northern goshawk

species photo
species photo
species photo
species photo
species photo

Key Characteristics

The Northern goshawk is a large forest bird with long broad wings and a long tail which is rounded on the end. Upperparts of the adult are brown-gray to slate gray. The head has a black cap with a pronounced white eyeline. Underparts are light gray with fine horizontal vermiculations and vertical streaks. Undertail coverts are white, showy, and quite fluffy, especially during the breeding season. Immature birds are heavily streaked below and the undertail coverts are spotted. The goshawk may also be identified by its call which is a sharp and repetitive "ki ki ki" or "kak kak kak".

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: T - Threatened (legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: S3 - Vulnerable


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alcona 10 2020
Alger 7 2014
Alpena 2 2007
Antrim 3 2002
Bay 1 2002
Benzie 2 2001
Charlevoix 2 2018
Cheboygan 8 2002
Chippewa 16 2016
Clare 1 2001
Crawford 9 2024
Delta 11 2016
Dickinson 1 2005
Gogebic 5 2007
Grand Traverse 2 2007
Houghton 2 2000
Iosco 8 2012
Iron 9 2006
Kalamazoo 1 1998
Kalkaska 2 2024
Keweenaw 1 2000
Lake 7 2020
Luce 3 2011
Mackinac 12 2016
Manistee 8 2021
Marquette 2 2021
Mason 4 2020
Menominee 5 2012
Midland 2 2001
Montcalm 1 2002
Muskegon 1 2000
Newaygo 8 2016
Oceana 5 1999
Ogemaw 1 2020
Ontonagon 6 2012
Oscoda 14 2022
Otsego 3 2007
Presque Isle 1 2022
Roscommon 1 2020
Schoolcraft 6 2016
Tuscola 1 2008
Wexford 14 2020

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Northern Goshawks utilize a wide range of forested habitats ranging from boreal forests to northern hardwoods and occasionally pine plantations. In Michigan, goshawk nests occur most often in deciduous trees such as aspen, birch, beech, and maple and less frequent in conifers such as white pine, red pine, and jack pine.

Natural Community Types

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

Management practices that maintain moderate canopy closure, preserve large trees for nesting, and conserve large contiguous blocks of hardwoods or mixed forest stands should benefit this species.

Active Period

Migration from fourth week of February to fourth week of March

Migration from fourth week of August to third week of December

Nesting from fourth week of March to third week of July

Survey Methods

A standard survey methodology for this species is to broadcast a goshawk call with a CD player (or other electronic device) in suitable habitat during the breeding season.

Broadcast conspecific call

Survey Period: From first week of April to fourth week of June

Time of Day: Daytime


Survey References

  • Bibby, C.J., N.D. Burgess, and D.A. Hill. 1992. Bird Census Techniques. Academic Press, New York.

Technical References

  • Cooper, J.L. 1999. Special Animal Abstract for Accipiter gentilis (Northern goshawk). Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, MI. 3pp.