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COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status on the Northern Goshawk (2000)

Species Information

Common names of species:
Northern Goshawk Laingi subspecies
Queen Charlotte Goshawk subspecies of Northern Goshawk
Scientific name:
Accipiter gentilis laingi

Description and Taxonomy

The Queen Charlotte Goshawk is a subspecies of Northern Goshawk (hereafter goshawk), a medium-sized, robust forest raptor. Three subspecies have been recognized in North America: A. g. atricapillus, A. g. apache and A. g. laingi, the Queen Charlotte Goshawk. A. g. atricapillus is found throughout forested areas of North America, except on the northwest coast, the extreme southwest USA, and Mexico (Squires and Reynolds 1997). A. g. apache occurs in southern Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico (Whaley and White 1994). A. g. laingi (Queen Charlotte Goshawk) occurs in southeast Alaska (Titus et al. 1994), on the coastal islands of British Columbia (American Ornithologists’ Union 1957), and, perhaps, the Olympic Peninsula (Beebe 1974). These subspecies are defined on the basis of colour and morphological differences (Taverner 1940), but the genetic validity of the apache and laingi subspecies is under debate. No significant genetic differences were found in blood samples of the three subspecies (Gavin and May 1995), but samples from Vancouver Island or the Queen Charlotte Islands, which are the core range for Queen Charlotte Goshawks (Iverson et al. 1996) were not used in the analysis. Flatten et al. (1998) compared morphometric data from captured birds in southeast Alaska and Vancouver Island, and from museum specimens from the Queen Charlotte Islands, and confirmed that the Queen Charlotte Goshawk is smaller and darker than A. g. atricapillus.



Goshawks are widely distributed in boreal and temperate forests of the Holarctic. In North America, it ranges from near the tree line in Alaska and northern Canada south to Mexico in the west, and Pennsylvania in the east. In Eurasia, it occurs from Great Britain, Scandinavia, northern Russia, and Siberia south to southern Europe, Iran, the Himalayan Mountains, eastern China, and Japan (American Ornithologists’ Union 1983; Squires and Reynolds 1997).

North America

Goshawks are resident in forested areas from near tree line in west-central Alaska across northern Canada. On the Pacific coast, it is resident south to Washington. In the interior, it is resident south throughout Canada to the southwestern USA, northern Mexico, the Great Lakes states, and the Appalachian Mountains in northeastern USA. (American Ornithologists’ Union 1983; Johnsgard 1990; Marshall 1992; Duncan and Kirk 1995; Braun et al. 1996; Squires and Reynolds 1997). The Queen Charlotte Goshawk occurs in southeast Alaska (Titus et al. 1994), on the coastal islands of British Columbia (American Ornithologists’ Union 1957), and the Olympic Peninsula (Beebe 1974), and, perhaps, coastal Washington and Oregon (Jewett et al. 1953). See Figure 1.

Map of the Canadian distribution of the Northern Goshawk Laingi subspecies.

Figure 1: Canadian Distribution of the Northern Goshawk Laingi Subspecies


In Canada , goshawks are resident throughout forested parts of the country from the Yukon south through British Columbia, across the northern forested parts of the prairie provinces, and most of Ontario, Quebec, and Labrador (Duncan and Kirk 1995; Squires and Reynolds 1997). The Queen Charlotte Goshawk occurs only in coastal British Columbia (Campbell et al. 1990), mainly on the Queen Charlotte Islands and Vancouver Island (American Ornithologists’ Union 1957), and probably on other large coastal islands (McClaren 1997). Although evidence for occurrence on the coastal mainland of British Columbia is generally lacking (T. Ethier pers. comm. in Duncan and Kirk 1995; R.W. Campbell pers. comm. in Crocker-Bedford 1994), it seems likely that the Queen Charlotte Goshawk occurs on the north and central mainland coast. For example, one radio-tagged Queen Charlotte Goshawk, originally captured on northeastern Vancouver Island, dispersed to Loughborough Inlet on the coastal mainland, 15 km from Vancouver Island (D. Doyle pers. comm.).