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

Special Significance


The United States Department of Interior (USDI Fish and Wildlife Service 1992 in Crocker-Bedford 1994) designated goshawks (including the Queen Charlotte Goshawk) as a Category 2 candidate species for Threatened or Endangered status in 1991; however, the Fish and Wildlife Service no longer maintains a list of Category 2 candidate species (USDI Fish and Wildlife Service 1996 in Iverson et al. 1996). Goshawks are on the Sensitive Species lists of the Pacific Southwest (1981), Southwest (1982), Intermountain (1992), Rocky Mountains (1993) and Alaska (1994) Forest Service Regions. At the state level, goshawks are listed as a high priority species by state working groups of Partners in Flight in Alaska, Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico. In June 1998, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied a listing of goshawks (including Queen Charlotte Goshawk) as an Endangered species in the contiguous United States west of the 100th meridian (USDI Fish and Wildlife Service 1998).

On the Pacific coast, the Queen Charlotte Goshawk is ranked as “Critically imperiled globally” or “Imperiled globally” (T1/T2), by the Alaska Natural Heritage Program (West 1993 in Duncan and Kirk 1995; West 1994). In 1994, the Queen Charlotte Goshawk was formally designated as a “species of special concern” by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (Iverson et al. 1996). A petition to declare the Queen Charlotte Goshawk an Endangered species in the USA was denied in September 1997 (Federal Register 1997).

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) evaluated both subspecies that occur in Canada: the Queen Charlotte Goshawk (which occurs only in British Columbia) was designated Vulnerable, whereas Northern Goshawk (A. g. atricapillus) was designated Not at Risk (Duncan and Kirk 1995).

The British Columbia Conservation Data Centre (CDC) ranks the Queen Charlotte Goshawk as S2B, SZN (imperiled in British Columbia due to rarity and perceived threats to habitat). The Queen Charlotte Goshawk is currently on the British Columbia “Red List” as a candidate species for Endangered or Threatened status (Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks 1999).

Geographic Isolation

The Queen Charlotte Goshawk is likely distributed from southeast Alaska south through coastal British Columbia to the Olympic Peninsula. Populations in southeast Alaska and the Olympic Peninsula undoubtedly intergrade with populations of A. g. atricapillus (Iverson et al. 1996). Populations on Vancouver Island are likely relatively insular. However, the potential for dispersal of individuals from/to the mainland coast is relatively high given that coastal islands provide natural bridges on northern Vancouver Island and the widest stretch of open water between southern Vancouver Island and the mainland is approximately 30 km. In 1999, a female that was radio tagged as a breeding adult on northern Vancouver Island was tracked in the autumn on the mainland directly across Johnstone Strait (D. Doyle pers. comm.).

The population of Queen Charlotte Goshawks on the Queen Charlotte Islands is likely the most insular of all populations. The Queen Charlotte Islands are separated from the nearest islands in southeast Alaska and islands adjacent to the British Columbia mainland by approximately 60 km. If the rate of migration and dispersal is relatively low, as suggested by most studies on the Queen Charlotte Goshawk (Titus et al. 1994, Iverson et al. 1996; McClaren 1997), then it is likely that the Queen Charlotte Island population is the most genetically distinct. 

Conservation Urgency

The Queen Charlotte Goshawk population on the Queen Charlotte Islands provides the most concerns from a wildlife management perspective. Although sufficient data are lacking, we believe that the population density on the Queen Charlotte Islands is substantially lower than that found on Vancouver Island (Chytyk and Dhanwant 1999; Cooper and Stevens 2000), and we suggest that the population of Queen Charlotte Goshawks on the Queen Charlotte Islands is about 50 pairs. This small population, because of its insularity, also likely represents the most genetically distinct population of Queen Charlotte Goshawks in North America. Consequently, the conservation and protection of the Queen Charlotte Islands population of Queen Charlotte Goshawks is paramount.