Accipiter gentilis atricapillus

Status:  Rare regular spring and fall migrant statewide. Rare casual summer visitor northwest. Rare regular winter visitor statewide.

Documentation: Specimen: UNSM ZM12491, Nov 1896 near Maxwell, Lincoln Co.

Taxonomy:  Ten subspecies are recognized, eight of these in Eurasia, and three in the Americas: laingi of southwest Canada, atricapillus of the rest of Canada and the US, south to northwest Mexico, and apache of southwest US and northwest Mexico (Gill and Donsker 2017).

Nebraska birds are atricapillus.

Spring:  winter <<<>>> Apr 12, 13, 16

Later dates are 21 Apr 1989 Dawes Co, northwest Nebraska 24 May (Rosche 1982), 28 May 1988 Sioux Co, and northwest Nebraska 1 Jun (Roger Sharpe, personal communication).

Reports are most numerous late Mar and Apr. Most Nebraska birds and those few wintering to the south of Nebraska are probably young birds (see Fall). These might be expected to initiate northward movement later than mature birds, accounting for late Apr and May sightings.

SummerOccasional observations during the summer months on the Pine Ridge probably are of wide-ranging individuals from the Black Hills of South Dakota (Roger Sharpe, personal communication, Tallman et al 2002), although, despite the presence of about 30 territories in the Black Hills 2003-2009, breeding has not been confirmed since, possibly because of the isolated location of the Black Hills hindering recruitment (Drilling et al 2018). Recent Black Hills sightings have been attributed to wandering non-breeding immatures (Drilling et al 2018). A bird suggestive of this species was seen by experienced observers over West Ash Creek, Dawes Co 15 Jun 2018. Rosche (1982) listed no summer occurrences in northwest Nebraska.

Fall:  Oct 17, 20, 20 <<<>>> winter

Fledglings begin migration first, as early as late Aug and Sep (Squires et al 2020); there is a very early Nebraska report by an experienced observer of a juvenile hunting pigeons in downtown Omaha 7 Sep 2008 (Mark Brogie, pers. comm.), and another juvenile was shot near Valley, Douglas Co 17 Oct 2010. It is likely that most goshawks migrating into Nebraska are juveniles; adults tend to overwinter in their summer territories as long as food is available (Squires et al 2020).

Fall of 2019 saw four reports, more than usual. Singles were in Dixon  Co 3 Nov, Lancaster Co 19 Nov, and Scotts Bluff Co 29 Nov. In addition, one was released 21 Nov by Fontenelle Forest Raptor Recovery that had been recovered in western Nebraska a month earlier. It was only the 9th goshawk handled by Raptor Recovery since 1976.

Winter: Wintering birds are mostly restricted to northern and northwestern Nebraska. Winter visitors generally defend a winter range for several weeks, such as Nebraska wintering birds remaining in the same area 9 Nov-5 Jan, 15 Nov-30 Jan, 11 Dec-26 Feb, and 3 Jan-10 Apr (Roger Sharpe, pers. comm.).

Five were reported 2020-2021, including three adults.


UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum


Photograph (top) of a Northern Goshawk specimen (ZM7660) collected in Crete, Saline Co 28 Oct 1916  by Joel G. Jorgensen.   The specimen is housed and maintained at the University of Nebraska State Museum and was legally salvaged or collected.  We thank Thomas Labedz for facilitating the photographing of this specimen for the Birds of Nebraska – Online.

Literature Cited

Drilling, N.E., E.D Stukel, R.A. Sparks, and B.J. Woiderski. 2018. The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds of South Dakota. SDGFP, Wildlife Division Report 2017-02. South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, Pierre.

Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.

Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, USA.

Squires, J.R., R.T. Reynolds, J. Orta, and J.S. Marks. 2020. Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Tallman, D.A., Swanson, D.L., and J.S. Palmer. 2002. Birds of South Dakota. Midstates/Quality Quick Print, Aberdeen, South Dakota, USA.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2021. Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), Version 1.0. In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 15 Mar 2021