[CT Birds] juv N. Goshawk - look out!

Greg Hanisek ghanisek at rep-am.com
Sat May 4 23:43:51 EDT 2013

You don't have to duck. Usually you only have to do that for adults defending a nest. But if you're trying to ID a Gos, and it's a juv. - look out! It's arguably the most misidentified bird in CT and many other states. I mention this because I've been handling a number of reports/questions from eBird and elsewhere and this bird presents continuous problems. Adults are pretty straight forward, but juveniles are tough. Cooper's Hawk is the usual confusion species, but others, such as Red-shouldered, also cause problems at times.

I think the primary source of misplaced confidence in naming one of these is the field guide emphasis on the white supercilium (eye brow mark). It's prominent on juv Gos but present to varying degrees on Cooper's and even juv. buteos. The best way to get off on the right foot in trying to ID a Gos (a rather rare bird that you're not going to see often) is to just ignore the supercillium.

There are a suite of other characters that together make for a more confident ID. These included underpart pattern, back pattern, tail pattern and tail shape. Detailed accounts can be found in any of the good hawk ID books by Dunne/Sibley, Jerry Liguori, Brian Wheeler and William Clark. There are also good comparitive sites on the Web.

If you see a big juv Accipiter, first make sure it's not a Buteo. Then start looking at everything but the supercillium.

Greg Hanisek

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