Sunday, January 17, 2016

Northern Goshawk, very unusual bird in my area of Colorado


I spotted this adult Northern Goshawk this afternoon a few miles east of Canon City in a cactus grassland area as it flew across the road in front of me. While I couldn't see field marks as I was too distant it's flying very low to the ground got my attention. When it landed in a juniper shrub about 200 feet from me I stopped my car and saw it's white eyebrow in my binoculars so grabbed my camera and quickly got off a few shots in the short time before it flew off. As I only had about 30 seconds to get pics and there was no good place to pull off the road I had to take the pics with my car running (pulled to the side of the driving lane, fortunately no traffic came by) so that added to less than great shots.
But these pics clearly show the salient field marks for adult Northern Goshawk: that big white supercilium (eyebrow stripe, dark stripe through eye, dark cap, long tail, bluish grey upperparts and some broad dark but inconspicuous bands on it's grey tail (and even a thin white terminal band found on some adults). When it flew off it again flew very close to the ground as is shown in the bottom pic--it was over a hundred feet from the shrub it flew from and maintained this low level height of  only about 5 feet above the ground until it disappeared from view.  Found this discussion of this low flying on the Canadian Peregrine Foundation website: "The goshawk, and to a lesser extent the Cooper’s hawk, will also actively search for prey by flying relatively close to the ground and trying to use the element of surprise to their advantage." SeEtta