Skip to main content

Announcing the American Goshawk Project

By Jessy Wilson, Boise State M.S. Raptor Biology student

Hi! I am so excited to be joining IBO’s Team Goshawk as a new graduate student! I will be studying the newly renamed American Goshawk, with a special focus on the ecology of breeding goshawks. Goshawks in the IBO study area (southern ID, northern UT) have been reflecting trends of population declines as well as declining rates of occupancy and productivity. Additionally, the rate of breeding territory turnover has increased and is above the long-term average.

This suggests the goshawks in these areas are experiencing abnormal population changes.

a fluffy nestling has mostly cottonball down, with just a few brown feathers beginning to peek through. Its large pale yellow feet grasp awkwardly on the nest and it can't quite stand on its own yet. It has a silver aluminum band on one leg, and a purple colored metal band on the other. The purple band has two white letters stamped into it.
American Goshawk nestling, returned to its nest 65 feet above the ground, after receiving metal and color bands. Sawtooth National Forest, 2023. Photo Credit: Jessy Wilson

Even with IBO’s research on American Goshawks over the past several years, we still don’t know where goshawks travel when they leave a previously occupied territory (i.e., territory turnover event), how their breeding success compares in new locations, and how the habitat and landscape characteristics compare between known and unknown sites.

As a new Master’s student in Boise State’s Raptor Biology Program, I will be addressing these research questions and more with Jay Carlisle, Rob Miller, and the Intermountain Bird Observatory.

a small brown rectangular transmitter. The brown neoprene straps are worn and frayed after use. The transmitter is dusty from laying on the ground. a sticker on the side is partly legible and reads: "if found please contact" and lists a phone number
An older, previously-used cellular transmitter, approximately the size that would fit a goshawk. The solar panel is seated at the top of the unit and a cushioned neoprene pad is affixed to the bottom where it will rest on the bird’s back. Photo Credit: Jessy Wilson

Utilizing GPS transmitter data, I plan to examine the movement of American Goshawks throughout their yearly cycle.

This will include where they choose to occupy breeding territories, where dispersing adults are moving, and what this means for current forest management and goshawk conservation in the Great Basin.

a dark blackish gray goshawk is held in a biologists outstretched hand. The goshawk is looking downward and to the side with intense orange eyes. Behind is a burned forest scene with darkened tree trunks, orange dead conifer needles, and mostly bare understory
An unusually dark plumaged adult female American Goshawk, captured for the purpose of applying color bands and USGS bands. This female can now be re-sighted in the future and identified as the same bird. Sawtooth National Forest, 2023. Photo Credit: Jessy Wilson

In addition to studying adult goshawk movement ecology, I also plan to study the microclimate conditions that goshawks experience at the level of the nest by placing thermologgers to remotely record data like temperature and relative humidity.

Nest data on this scale has never been collected before in this study area.

This will give us insight into questions such as – how warm does it actually get in the canopy where goshawks nest? What sun exposure do goshawk nestlings experience as canopy cover changes? How does this nest microclimate data influence goshawk nest success, likelihood of future occupancy, and long-term breeding trends in goshawk territories?


2 young hawks with white fuzzy down in stick nest in pine tree
Two young American Goshawk nestlings keep close watch on biologists as they approach the nest. Photo Credit: Robert Miller

Collecting data with thermologgers would allow us to make more informed explanations about what mechanisms might be driving nest failures and decreased occupancy/productivity rates.

Support Our Goshawk Conservation Efforts

Transmitters and thermologgers needed for this project are a significant expense, and our research team has put together a fundraiser to help cover the costs. T-shirts and sweatshirts are available for purchase in IBO’s Bonfire shop, with artwork designed by a fellow Lucky Peak alum, Emma Regnier (@falcofous on Instagram).

the new Goshawk graphic shirt designed by Emma. Three goshawk heads in profile, lined up vertically. The bottom is a nestling goshawk with grayish eyes and fluffy down. The center is a juvenile goshawk with brown plumage and yellow eye. The top is an adult Goshawk with striking black and gray plumage and red eye. The background shows goshawk habitat: conifer forest and snowy mountains
The American Goshawk Project T-shirt design, created by Emma Regnier. Available in different styles and colors in IBO’s Bonfire store!

Research like this is not possible without your help, and we’d like to invite you to invest in this great project! Beyond the Bonfire fundraiser, we are also seeking any individuals or organizations who may be interested in sponsoring a goshawk by covering the costs of one transmitter. Depending on the specific unit, cellular or satellite units range $800-$1200 per unit plus annual data fees. By sponsoring a goshawk, donors can symbolically “name” a bird, receive special updates on that specific bird…

…and have the opportunity to join us for a day in the field!

an adult female goshawk with striking gray, black, and white plumage and intense red eye sits quietly on a twig nest, peering out through pine branches.
American Goshawk on a nest. Photo Credit: Robert Miller

Stay Informed and Support the Project

You can stay up to date on the American Goshawk Project through Facebook (IBO Team Goshawk), and on Instagram (@americangoshawk)! Thank you for your interest and support!

This article is part of our 2023 end of the year newsletter! View the full newsletter here, or click “older posts” below to read the next article.

Make sure you don’t miss out on IBO news! Sign up to get our email updates.