During the 1990s, we conducted research on the distribution, productivity, and habitat relationships of Northern Goshawks (Accipiter gentilis) in eastern Oregon and Washington. Our research was initiated primarily in response to concerns raised about the status of Northern Goshawks in the western US, and coincided with early attempts to list the species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act and the publication of management guidelines for goshawks in the southwestern US. To develop baseline information on the status, distribution, and habitat relationships of goshawks in eastside forests (i.e., east of the Cascade Mountain Range) in the Pacific Northwest, we established study areas on three national forests in eastern Oregon in 1992, adding a fourth study area in central Washington in 1994. We focused on the breeding season and nesting habitat because of its primary importance to goshawk ecology and the logistical feasibility of finding nests. Density of breeding pairs ranged from 0.03-0.09/100 ha, and annual productivity ranged from 0.3-2.2 young fledged/nest. Goshawks selected forest stands with trees of larger diameter and greater canopy closure for nesting than available in the landscape. Occasionally nests could be found in large trees in open-canopied stands. As distance increased from the nest site, forest type and structure became more heterogeneous and the prevalence of older-seral-stage forest declined. Dry or wet openings were present in most territories, often within close proximity to nest stands. Goshawks ate a variety of mammalian and avian prey. Mammal species made up a larger portion of prey biomass on two of the national forests, but avian species appeared to be more prevalent in the diet of goshawks in the most northern study area. We recommend that the existing management guidelines for goshawks in the Southwest form a basis for management in the inland Pacific Northwest, particularly with regard to nested spatial concepts, emphasis on management of prey, and the use of silviculture to promote the development and replacement of old growth or late-seral-stage forest. Our research and management recommendations can be used in concert with the Southwestern management guidelines to establish a mix of vegetation structural stages to support goshawk populations, their prey, and other forest wildlife species specifically for the inland Pacific Northwest.
Additional publication details
Ecology and habitat of breeding Northern Goshawks in the inland Pacific Northwest: A summary of research in the 1990s