Victor Harbor artist Ann Somerville-Charles observes the goshawk species

According to field guide manuals, the Fleurieu Peninsula is home to fifteen raptor species. I see whistling kites, Australian hobbies, black-shouldered kites and nankeen kestrels on a regular basis. A few months ago, I was delighted to add another bird of prey to my Fleurieu list. After eight years of birdwatching in the region, I have finally come face to face with a brown goshawk!

My sighting occurred on the Wattle Trail by the Hindmarsh River. The bird simply appeared, flew over my head and landed on the branch of a nearby tree. Fortunately, it remained on its perch long enough for me to take a few photographs and make some observations.

The brown goshawk is a raptor of 40cms to 55cms with rounded wings and a long rounded tail. It has bright yellow eyes, a grey head and long yellow legs. The upperparts are slate-grey to brown with a chestnut collar across the nape. The underparts are a mixture of chestnut and white with fine barring on the chest and belly. Its plumage is similar to that of a related raptor species called the collared sparrowhawk. This species can be distinguished from the brown goshawk by its smaller size, thinner legs, square tail and extremely long middle toe.

Brown goshawks belong to a family of birds named Accipitridae. Characteristics of birds in this family include forward-facing eyes, hooked beaks and powerful talons. Brown goshawks often hunt from a concealed perch. Prey is taken on the ground and in flight. Their diet consists of birds, mammals, reptiles and insects.

Brown goshawks are widespread throughout Australia and can be found in woodlands, open forests and watercourse vegetation. They are secretive and unobtrusive birds that often remain obscured in the foliage. I can’t wait for my next encounter with this captivating species.

Written by Ann Somerville-Charles.