Learn about native animals

Brown goshawk

Do I look like an angry bird?

Although the strong ridges above my eyes are commonly used by bird watchers to help identify me and give me a frowning appearance, I’m not an angry bird!

You could call me a surprising bird though, as I pounce from my hiding spots onto my prey.

Who am I?

They call me the brown goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus) and I’m a member of the accipitridae family – a family of hawks, eagles, goshawks and kites with similar rounded wings, long legs and strongly hooked bills. We might lack the speed of our falcon relatives, but we definitely make up for that with agility as we’re able to move through tangled canopies of woodlands with ease.

When I fly, I rapidly flap my wings combined with short bursts of gliding in between. My favourite way to hunt is to surprise my prey by suddenly shooting towards it from a hidden perch.

What do I look like?

I’m a strong, medium-sized raptor with a brown head and greyish-brown wings and back. My collar is chestnut brown, and my belly is reddish-brown scattered with fine white bars.

My rounded wings are a darker grey-brown, moving to a reddish-brown towards the end with a darker grey tip. My tail is grey, long, rounded, with dark bars.

My strong legs are long and yellow with reddish-brown feathers at the top and my striking eyes are a distinctive bright yellow.

I grow to be around 40-55 centimetres in length with a wingspan of 75-95 centimetres with females being larger than males.

I look virtually identical to the smaller collared sparrowhawk, which is also found in Adelaide, so you’ll need more than the description above to be sure it’s me.

Where do I live?

I can be found in woodlands throughout Australia, particularly eucalypt forests as well as cities and farmland. I can also be spotted in the rainforests of the Pacific in New Guinea, the Lesser Sunda Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji.

Some of us who live in the south of Australia may migrate to northern areas during the winter months.

I am found all throughout Adelaide and on the Fleurieu Peninsula. I can be spotted at Cleland National Park and Deep Creek National Park, as well as along the River Torrens near the CBD.

What do I like to eat?

I eat small mammals, birds, small reptiles, amphibians, large insects and occasionally dead animals. I often hunt near wetlands and farms and target anything from ducks and pigeons to lorikeets.

I can wait for a very long time on my hidden perches until the alarm calls of other birds have waned and I find the right time to launch and attach on unsuspecting prey. With incredible agility and short bursts of speed I reach my prey, I then gracefully use my long legs and sharp claws to pluck it out of the sky, canopy or from the ground, before taking it back to a secluded perch to eat in peace. I’m not only a master of hunting in the sky, I can also chase my prey on foot.

What do I sound like?

My call is a loud, rapid ‘keek-keek-keek' and is usually used when I’m not in “stealth mode” and chasing prey. I can sometimes also be heard using a lower, drawn out ‘ee-you-wick, ee-you-wick'. Listen to my call.

What are my breeding habits?

I find the tallest tree around a build a large nest of sticks and twigs lined with eucalypt leaves, sometimes near a waterway or the edge of a forest.

I find a long-term partner, and like many birds, we breed in spring and early summer. We aggressively defend our nest and territory, often returning to the same nest year after year.

I lay 2-4 eggs and females will do most of the job of incubating them for around 30 days, while the male does most of the hunting for our young. Our chicks usually fledge around one month after hatching and will often disperse hundreds of kilometres from home and may keep moving until they establish their own breeding territories.

I live for up to 11 years.

What can you do to help?

Raptors such as us are vital to Adelaide because we are a sign of a healthy ecosystem, and we feed on pests like European starlings and rats.

My conservation status in South Australia and the rest of Australia is secure.

Sometimes, I can become so focused in pursuit of small birds that I will occasionally chase them into pergolas, of your alfresco! If this happens, just leave me plenty of space and try not to block my exit to encourage me to leave.

Birds in the wild and many in aviaries all look like food to me, so please make sure that aviaries are covered, and pet birds are not left out as I might get an easy meal.

Please be aware that the use of rat poison can kill birds like me. If you choose to use poison to control rats and mice, please look into bird-friendly rodent control to ensure you are not poisoning me along with your unwanted pests.