Monday, August 6, 2012

Northern Goshawks prefer organic chicken, too

Young adult male Northern Goshawk.

Last week I was able to get some decent photos of a Northern Goshawk at our farm. Unfortunately it was standing on the dead body of one of our young New Hampshire cockerels, but what can you do.

We're guessing that this is a young adult male Goshawk. Looking closely at my photos, it appears that this bird is almost completely into its adult plumage. And like most raptors, the male Goshawk is smaller than the female, and this one is definitely smaller than the chicken  it killed. In fact, the hawk couldn't get off the ground with the chicken. (The adult Goshawk tops out at 2.1 pounds, and this 14-week-old cockerel was easily twice that weight.) The photo below shows the hawk trying hard to move the chicken, but it only managed to jerk it a few inches across the grass. I wonder if the hawk learned a lesson from this? Hmm.

The Goshawk tries unsuccessfully to fly off with a chicken twice its size.

I've been trying to get photos of a Goshawk for a while now. Our friend Shelly Ament, a wildlife biologist with Washington's Fish and Wildlife Department, told us that Goshawks are not often seen by humans in the wild. (Ha, I thought. Try letting some chickens free-range in YOUR backyard.) I retrieved a primary wing feather, which I saw fall from the hawk while it was flapping its wings, and we saved it to give to Shelly. She had asked us to be on the lookout for Goshawk feathers. Her department is interested in comparing the genetics of Goshawks in our area to those of hawks in British Columbia, so she was quite pleased to have the feather.

The white supercilium (eyebrow) clearly identifies the Northern Goshawk.

Since we choose to free-range our chickens, turkeys and ducks, we do lose birds to predators from time to time. Still, we feel fortunate to live in a place where we sometimes see beautiful animals like the Northern Goshawk. What a gorgeous bird.