Key facts

Scientific name: Accipiter gentilis

Status: Resident breeding species and naturalised escapes

Breeding birds: 280-430 pairs

Conservation status: Green

Length: 46 – 63 cm

Wingspan: 89 – 112 cm

Weight: 600 – 1,100 g (M) 900 – 2,000g (F)


Adult goshawks are brownish-grey to slate-grey upperparts and pale grey underparts. They have strong black bars on their breasts, underwings, and thighs, and vertical streaks on their throats. Their undertail coverts are white and fluffy and their flight feathers are pale grey with dark barring.

Goshawks have black heads with a white stripe from the forehead to the back of the head.  They have hooked black bills with a yellow cere. Female goshawks have yellow-orange eyes and males have orange-red eyes. Their legs and feet are yellow with black talons.

Male and female goshawks look similar, but females are larger and heavier with browner upperparts.

Juvenile goshawks have brown upperparts and pale underparts streaked with dark brown. The white stripe on their heads is less noticeable than in adults.


Female goshawks do most of the nest-building which is made from sticks lined with bark chips. It is built in a large tree on a branch or in a fork close to the trunk.

Goshawks lay 3-4 eggs which are pale blue or dirty white coloured. They are incubated mainly by the female for 35-38 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge at 36-42 days. They are independent about 6 weeks later.

A pair of goshawks will maintain several nests within in a territory using them in alternate years.  


Goshawks eat mainly small or medium-sized birds but will also prey on small mammals including rabbits, hares and rats. They will also take other vertebrates such as lizards. 


Where to see them

Goshawks are scattered across the UK. They can be seen hunting over countryside near areas of woodland and forest. 


Beatrix Saadi-Varchmin/xeno-canto

Did you know?

The goshawk’s scientific name,  means gentle hawk. It was the raptor of choice for noble Mediaeval falconers. 

3 more birds

Identification guides

Birds in your inbox

Sign up for the latest news and updates