Brown Goshawk Click to enlarge image
Brown Goshawk Image: Geoff Whalan
creative commons

Fast Facts

  • Classification
  • Size Range
    37 cm to 55 cm
AMS407/025/CL221 Brown Goshawk male
Scanned in 2005 for the Birds in the Backyard website Image: -
© Australian Museum

Brown Goshawks hunt for starlings and house sparrows by flying low over towns and suburban areas in the evenings, when these birds are returning to their roosts.


Brown Goshawks are medium-sized raptors (birds of prey). They have a brown head, slate-grey to brown upperparts with a red-brown collar across the upper nape of the neck, and finely barred underparts of red-brown with white. The rounded wings are dark brown to grey above and buff to reddish brown below with darker wingtips, and the long rounded tail is grey with dark bars. The long legs are yellow, with reddish brown feathering about the thighs. The eye is bright yellow. Males are smaller than females. Young birds have grey-brown eyes, with brown, streaky plumage. There are several subspecies, with the northern sub-species, didimus, being generally smaller and paler. The Brown Goshawk is widespread but secretive.


The Brown Goshawk is found in most timbered habitats.


Brown Goshawks are found across Australia in suitable habitats. They are also found in New Guinea, the Lesser Sundas, New Caledonia and the New Hebrides.


Northern birds are sedentary, but southern birds tend to be nomadic, and immature birds move north when dispersing during the winter months.

Feeding and diet

Brown Goshawks feed on small mammals, with rabbits a particularly important prey item, as well as birds, reptiles and insects and sometimes, carrion (dead animals). They hunt stealthily from a low, concealed perch, using sudden, short bursts of speed to pounce onto prey and use their long legs and clawed toes to reach out and strike it. It will occasionally stalk or run along the ground after insects. Prey items are taken back to a perch to be partially plucked (mammals, birds) and then eaten.


A loud, rising 'keek-keek-keek'; also a slow, drawn out 'ee-you-wick, ee-you-wick'. Females have deeper voices than males.

Breeding behaviours

The Brown Goshawk builds its large stick nest on a horizontal limb of the tallest tree available, often near a waterway or at the edge of a forest. It may sometimes re-use an old raptor's nest. The nest is kept lined with fresh eucalypt leaves. Both parents defend the nest and surrounding territory aggressively. Established pairs will reuse the same area year after year, and often use the same nest. The female incubates the eggs, with the male helping when she needs to leave the nest to feed. The male does the bulk of the hunting to feed the young, which remain dependent on their parents for up to three weeks after fledging. Young birds disperse widely, with distances of up to 900 km not uncommon, to find and establish their own breeding territories.

  • Breeding season: July to December
  • Clutch size: Two to four, usually three
  • Incubation: 33 days
  • Time in nest: 35 days

Economic impacts

Brown Goshawks are known to breed in well-forested areas near cities such as Canberra, and will feed on introduced birds in urban areas, such as House Sparrows and Common Starlings. Bores and other artificial water sources are important to birds in inland areas. Goshawks can sometimes prey upon aviary birds and free-range fowl.


  • Olsen, P. 1995. Australian Birds of Prey: the Biology and Conservation of Raptors.University of New South Wales Press, Sydney.
  • Morcombe, M. 2000. Field guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing.
  • Simpson, K and Day, N. 1999. Field guide to the birds of Australia, 6th Edition. Penguin Books, Australia.